Suspects

Rashidi, Iyombelo, Elias Lupango

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BOISE — Three Boise teens accused of raping an 18-year-old woman in Kuna this month appeared in court Friday afternoon, where a magistrate judge set bail for each of them at $250,000.

Elias Lupango, 19, Mulanga Rashidi, 18, Swedi Iyombelo, 18, were all booked into the Ada County Jail Thursday afternoon on suspicion of rape, according to a statement from the Ada County Sheriff’s Office. A fourth, a 16-year-old boy was booked in Friday morning and will be held in a juvenile detention facility.

All three men are scheduled to appear in court again Feb. 27 for a preliminary hearing. Rape is punishable by up to life in prison in Idaho.

Kuna police began investigating the incident Feb. 8, according to the release.

The victim reportedly communicated with Iyombelo through social media, and the two agreed to meet up, a prosecutor in the case told Magistrate Judge Russell Comstock in court Friday.

But when the woman arrived, she later told police, she found the four teens instead of just Iyombelo. She told police she was “apprehensive,” the prosecutor said in court, but she got into the car with Iyombelo, and the two began to have sex.

The other three then began having sex with her, even after she asked them to stop.

She later told police, according to the prosecutor, that she believed they would kill her if she did anything more.

That incident occurred Feb. 7, according to a criminal complaint filed against the men. The Ada County Sheriff’s Office, which polices Kuna, began investigating the next day, according to a statement from the agency.

The teens and the woman kept up communication through social media after the incident, the prosecutor said. Police found messages between them in which she said “they had abused her and she never said it was OK.”

Officers also found a video message in which all of the defendants apologized to her, the prosecutor said.

Police took control of her social media account and used it to stage a meeting with some of the men, according to the prosecutor. When they arrived at the agreed-upon location, Ada County Sheriff’s deputies arrested them, he said.

After their arrest, Rashidi and Lupango told police the victim hadn’t given them permission to have sex with her — and, in fact, probably didn’t want them to have sex with her, the prosecutor said.

Jessica Harrison, the Ada County deputy public defender representing the men at the hearing, told Comstock that, according to the men, the woman knew there were four of them, and they’d agreed to pay her for sex.

She noted there was, clearly, “more to the story.”

All three men are refugees from Tanzania, Harrison said. Rashidi had been in the country for six months, she said, and Iyombelo and Lupango had arrived three years ago. The two had some experience working at McDonald’s, she said.

They could only feasibly afford to pay $2,000 in bond at most, she said, not the $250,000 prosecutors asked for.

Still, noting the seriousness of the allegations, and the teens’ apparent “lack of ties to the community” — a common legal phrase meant to suggest a person might be more inclined to flee to avoid prosecution — Comstock agreed to set bail for the men at $250,000 each.

Two of the men — who communicated with Comstock through video from the Ada County Jail and with the help of an interpreter — at different points in the hearing cut in to tell the judge they were innocent.

When Comstock asked if Lupango understood the charges he faced, he replied, “Yes, judge, I understand, but that’s not what I did.”

Rashidi also addressed Comstock after the judge explained his rights, saying, “Yes, but all this is not true, judge.”

At the time of his arrest, Lupango was on unsupervised probation, a sentence he has served since May, after his conviction on one count of willful concealment of goods, wares or merchandise, according to court documents. A search of the Idaho Supreme Court’s online repository did not reveal criminal cases — past or present — against Iyombelo or Rashidi.

Tommy Simmons is the Ada County public safety reporter for the Idaho Press. Follow him on Twitter @tsimmonsipt

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