LOCAL NEWS

Rape case moved to juvenile court after documents show refugee was 3 years younger

Sep 23, 2022, 3:15 PM
Felony rape of a child charges were transferred from adult court to juvenile court after a teen obt...
Felony rape of a child charges were transferred from adult court to juvenile court after a teen obtained documents showing he was 16 at the time of the alleged crimes and not 19 as other documents indicated. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)
(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Prosecutors filed criminal charges against a refugee from Ethiopia in January, accusing the 21-year-old of raping a 12-year-old girl in Sandy when he was 19.

Except the refugee isn’t 21 and he was actually only 16 when the alleged crime occurred.

Now, prosecutors have scrambled to move the case from the adult system to juvenile court after the teenager was finally able to obtain his birth certificate and prove that the information on his identification, which showed him to be 21, was inaccurate.

The teenager was arrested in January and charged in 3rd District Court with two counts of rape of a child, a first-degree felony.

In January 2020, he began sending messages to a 12-year-old on Facebook and continued contacting her after she blocked him. Charging documents say he showed up at the girl’s house three times. The first time, he is accused of pushing his way into her house when the girl was alone, overpowering her and raping her.

Three days later, he returned and the girl’s sister answered the door. When he said he wanted the sister as well, the girl began fighting with him and “told her little sister to go in her room and lock the door,” the charges state. The girl said she was again raped.

The third time he paid a visit, police said both the girl and her sister were able to push him out of their house. The girl said he gave her a cellphone to “keep her quiet,” but later said “he was going to send people to (the girl’s) house to kill her,” according to the charges.

When the charges were filed, investigators had documentation showing that his birthdate was 01/01/01, which would make him 21 years old now, and 19 at the time of the alleged crimes.

A court motion filed by the teen’s attorney, Brixton Hakes, explained that the boy was born in Ethiopia and his birth certificate indicates he was actually born in May 2004, meaning he is now 18. Hakes claims his client was wrongfully prosecuted.

Hakes explained that his client’s family was searching for documentation that would show the teenager’s actual birthdate for months, and the process was very difficult. The motion filing shows driver’s licenses for two other individuals in this teenager’s family that have incorrect birth dates on Jan. 1, just like his, showing that this documentation issue is more widespread.

“Defendant immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia where proper documentation is inaccessible, unreliable and often inaccurate. Upon arrival to the United States, defendant and all of his family members were registered as having been born on Jan. 1. That information is not correct and merely a reflection of a lack of accessibility to proper documentation by defendant, and a possible language barrier,” the motion states.

The motion also says a 16- or 17-year-old who has sexual activity with someone who is 12 years old can only be charged with a third-degree felony.

The two juvenile charges filed against him are the same that were filed in adult court — first-degree felony rape of a child — except the phrase “if committed by an adult” has been added, which shows the charges could change in the future, to something more applicable for a juvenile case.

The initial motion to dismiss was filed on June 13, but it took until Sept. 2 for prosecutors to file the motion to dismiss and the adult charges to be dropped, after charges were filed in juvenile court on Aug. 24.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

The new Draper playground....
Shara Park

1.6 million-dollar Draper ‘all-abilities playground,’ damaged before opening

The new 'all-abilities playground' in Draper is delayed again because of some impatient visitors
20 hours ago
A new U of U hopes to expand it's diversity....
Erin Cox

New Latina dean hopes to help the University of Utah in efforts to become Hispanic serving institution

One of Utah’s largest universities has plans to become a Hispanic Serving Institution, the first of its kind here in Utah.
20 hours ago
The stranger holding a handgun in the driveway....
Shelby Hintze

‘He seemed prepared for battle:’ Neighbors terrified after encounter with armed stranger

Federal Heights residents are shaken up after a suspicious encounter with a stranger Friday afternoon.
20 hours ago
FILE photo...
REBECCA BOONE Associated Press

Idaho ordered to pay $2.5M to transgender inmate for legal fees

A federal judge has ordered Idaho and its prison medical care provider to pay more than $2.5 million in legal fees to a transgender inmate who sued after she was denied gender confirmation surgery.
20 hours ago
Emergency lights...
Pat Reavy, KSL.com

Utah teen who stabbed sleeping couple woke up wanting to hurt someone, charges say

A 15-year-old boy accused of entering a Taylorsville home at random and stabbing a couple in their bed told police he woke up early that morning wanting to "hurt someone," according to court records.
20 hours ago
Bags of heroin, some laced with fentanyl, are displayed before a press conference regarding a major...
Michael Houck

Utah man arrested at Salt Lake Airport with 4,100 fentanyl pills and 378 heroin doses

A man was arrested at the Salt Lake Airport with fentanyl pills planned to be distributed in Utah on Thursday.  
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Rape case moved to juvenile court after documents show refugee was 3 years younger