By Cameron Rasmusson
An alleged sexual assault case involving minors in Twin Falls went national last week after city authorities decried its reporting on Internet blogs as inaccurate.
According to Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs, the assault of a 5-year-old girl, initially reported by sites like InfoWars as a gang rape at knifepoint by Syrian refugees, was misrepresented in most of its details. There was no knife, no Syrian refugees and no gang rape. Most of the incident details, including the perpetrators’ legal status, are sealed by the court, a standard practice for crimes involving juveniles.
“I don’t know how this story got so distorted, whether people are just passing stories along or whether it’s deliberate,” he said.
Loebs said a group of three boys, ages 7, 10 and 14, were involved in an incident in which the youngest had sexual contact with the girl. Two boys of Sudanese and Iraqi decent are in custody following the assault. Loebs also denied claims of slow police response, a citywide cover-up or that the perpetrators’ families celebrated the attacks. News broke this week that the families of the boys were being evicted from the apartment complex where the alleged assault took place.
“The system is working exactly as it’s supposed to,” he said.
The Internet debates did not die down once several mainstream media outlets declared the story “false.” Many commenters opposed to refugee resettlement felt the details didn’t matter so much as the fact that an attack of some kind took place.
For Loebs, the most important message is that the situation is being treated with the gravity it warrants.
“I don’t want it to be lost that this is a serious incident, and we’re treating it as a serious incident,” he said.