False “News Blackout” Claim in Fawnbrook Sexual Assault Case

From WND:

News blackout on refugee boys who sexually assaulted Idaho girl

It’s as if it never happened.

A judge sentenced three Muslim refugee boys in the sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl in Idaho, but nobody knows the length or terms of the sentence because the judge has barred everyone in the courtroom, including the victim’s own parents, from speaking about the case.

The three boys — two from Iraq ages 7 and 10, and one from Sudan aged 14 — pleaded guilty in juvenile court in April to multiple counts of sex crimes in an incident that occurred last June in Twin Falls. The assault occurred at Fawnbrook Apartments, when 5-year-old Jayla, who is developmentally disabled, was lured into a laundry room, stripped of her clothing and sexually assaulted while the oldest boy filmed the entire incident.

This is an odd kind of “news blackout”, considering that the case has been widely reported in US media. There are of course reporting restrictions, but these are standard and because juveniles are involved in a criminal matter.

The WND author, Leo Hohmann (fresh from his botched reporting about Somalis in Minnesota), suggests that the “gag order” exists because the judge for some reason wishes to suppress criticism of how the prosecution handled the case. He quotes Pamela Geller, who claims to have received “leaked” information from inside the court, and the victim’s lawyer, Mark Guerry, who says that the family “were especially upset with the prosecutor’s repeated statements in the media defending the juvenile defendants, rather than focusing on the victim”. There’s also a bit of punditry from Matt Staver, who says that the judge has “forgotten about the First Amendment.”

The Twin Falls County Prosecutor, Grant Loebs, has responded to Guerry’s criticisms, although you wouldn’t know it from WND. As reported in the Idaho Statesman, Loebs explains:

“It’s not the job of a prosecutor to zealously represent the victim. My job is to zealously advocate for the state of Idaho and for whatever process results in the just settlement of the case and the truth coming out. That’s what we did from day 1,”

The article also notes that Guerry has previously accused Loebs of using improper influence to escape drink-driving charges, when in fact Loebs has never been suspected of such an offence.

There is also an important long-read about the background to the case by Daniel Vock in Governing magazine (“the nation’s leading media platform covering politics, policy and management for state and local government leaders”). Vock notes how early reports about the incident were highly inaccurate:

…The first reports falsely claimed that two of the assailants were Syrian and that they used a knife to carry out the attack. These reports described the assault in graphic detail, although Loebs says many of the details were wrong. The accounts were quickly picked up by websites such as InfoWars and World Net Daily. The Drudge Report ran an account under the headline: “REPORT: Syrian ‘Refugees’ Rape Little Girl at Knifepoint in Idaho.”

Notoriously, Alex Jones suggested that Chobani Yogurt was responsible, because it employed refugees in its local plant – the company sued, and Jones retracted (his second recent climb-down from a story he has been unable to substantiate).

Vock also describes the activist role played by a Breitbart reporter:

Breitbart sent its lead investigative reporter at the time, Lee Stranahan, to the city for a month to report on the Fawnbrook case and dig for dirt on the refugee program. Stranahan went beyond writing stories. He berated a city council member during the public comment portion of a meeting. Then he helped launch a group to promote populism and “localism” rather than “globalism” in Twin Falls. The group, called “Make Your Hometown Great Again,” also pushed for more aggressive policing, curbs on immigration and developing alternative media to replace local newspapers and TV stations as sources of information.

The creation of the supposed “group” appears to have been a stunt a few weeks ahead of the Presidential election – there has been no sign of it since, and Vock notes that Stranahan has now moved on and works for “a Russian news outlet” (a generous description of Sputnik, a propaganda operation owned by the Russian state).

Hostility towards the local media turned vicious: Vock explains that employees at the local Times-News received threats of violence, while the editor, Matt Christensen, received a rape threat against his daughters. Hardliners even a targeted a local Fox News contributor, Bill Colley.

None of this is of interest to WND of course, who would rather whip up spurious fear and resentment with a false claim about a “news blackout”.

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