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Deputy’s ‘missteps’ play role as teens accused of rape in Kuna get probation in plea deal

Crime Watch

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From left, Swedi Iyombelo, 18; Elias Lupango, 19; Mulanga Rashidi, 18; and Ulimwengu Lupango, 16, appeared in court with their attorneys. They were accused of raping an 18-year-old in Kuna in February. | Katherine Jones, Idaho Statesman

BOISE (Idaho Statesman) – Three Boise residents who were accused of raping an 18-year-old in Kuna pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of battery and false imprisonment Friday and will not serve additional jail time.

Elias Lupango, Swedi Iyombelo and Mulanga Rashidi were initially charged with felony rape in February. However, because of problems with how their Miranda rights were administered by investigating Ada County sheriff’s deputies, in-custody interviews with the suspects were suppressed, making the case for felony rape difficult to prove, Ada County prosecutor Tanner Stellmon said.

RELATED | Four Boise teenagers arrested for suspected rape of an 18-year-old

“Because of these missteps, the defense was successful in suppressing evidence,” Stellmon said. “Without that evidence, my hands are somewhat tied.

“I could not go before a jury and present the element of rape.”

Each defendant was given four years of supervised probation. The suspects were sentenced to a year in jail but given credit for the 200 or so days they have served, and the remainder was suspended.

RELATED | Grand jury indicts 4 Boise defendants for suspected rape

Ulimwengu Lupango, 16, was initially charged as an adult but was expected to reach a similar plea agreement in juvenile court on Friday, prosecutors said. Juvenile court records are sealed.

Ada County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Patrick Orr said in a statement Friday that “one of our deputies made an error while telling two of the four suspects their Miranda rights in February when he told them they had a right to an attorney ‘in court’ — instead of just saying they had a right to an attorney. … It was an honest mistake that had a horrible consequence.”

The statement said the Sheriff’s Office has since done further training with deputies and detectives “so we will avoid ever making this mistake again.”

“While we feel the rape case was charged correctly, we realize that our procedural mistake led to the suppression of the evidence Ada County prosecutors needed to prosecute the felony case,” Orr said.

The criminal complaint at the time stated that the teens all had vaginal sex with the woman. The woman was “prevented from resistance due to an objectionable, reasonable belief that resistance would be futile or would result in violence,” according to the complaint.

Iyombelo allegedly reached out to the victim via social media to “hang out,” and sex was never discussed, according to the prosecutor. The victim eventually consented to sex with Iyombelo but then said no three times, the prosecutor said. The others then took turns having sex with the victim despite her resistance, according to authorities.

RELATED | Judge denies bond reduction requests for 3 teenagers accused of raping a Kuna woman

The victim said she felt as if she told them to stop, she was afraid they would kill her, the prosecutor said.

The suspects are refugees who came to Boise from Tanzania, though it is unclear whether that was their home country or they fled from another nation and ended up in a refugee camp in Tanzania. A Swahili interpreter was used in court proceedings.

Stellmon said the fact that felonies had to be reduced to misdemeanors does not change what the woman experienced.

“There is a fundamental right and desire with who you are going to be intimate with,” he said. “She felt like she did not have that choice.”

RELATED | 4 defendants in Kuna rape case appear in court; juvenile suspect to be tried as adult

Need help?

The Faces of Hope Victim Center is available for victims in need of emergency services at 417 S. 6th St. in Boise. Victims should call 911 in emergencies or call 208-577-4400 on weekdays during business hours. Faces of Hope provides free medical care and forensic examinations for victims, as well as assistance with filing police reports and mental health care.

Survivors who may need help are also encouraged to contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.