South Dakota Eritrean Men Accused of taking 13-Year-Old Iowa Girl Across State Lines

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South Dakota Eritrean Men Accused of Taking 13-Year-Old Iowa Girl Across State Lines

"Mensur Malik immigrated from Eritrea, Africa, and Ethiopia to the United States and doesn’t know his actual birth date."

The Gazette | 31 July 2013 

Defendants charged with fourth-degree rape 

A judge ruled Wednesday two South Dakota men will remain in custody pending trial in federal court on charges of traveling across state lines to have sex with a 13-year-old Iowa girl and then taking her back with them to South Dakota.

Mensur Malik and Salim Issa, both 22, of Sioux Falls, S.D., were indicted earlier this month for traveling for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct. Malik was also charged with transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, which is fourth-degree rape under South Dakota law, according to an indictment.

Malik and Issa communicated with the 13-year-old Clear Lake girl on Facebook July 28, 2012, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Tremmel said during the hearing. The men told police the girl said she was 15 or 16 years of age. Issa and Malik had sex with her in Iowa and then took her back to Sioux Falls, and police found the girl and Malik in bed at his residence.

Both men were initially charged in state court last year but those charges were dismissed when they were charged in federal court.

Tremmel asked for detention because the crime is one of violence in which a 13-year-old was used for sexual purposes and taken from her home, both men present a danger to the community and both have ties to foreign countries and lack of ties to the community.

Max Wolson, Malik’s attorney, argued the girl initiated the contact through Facebook because of Malik’s “budding music career.” Malik isn’t a danger because he wasn’t out looking for young girls to communicate with. She contacted him.

Wolson said the government can’t prove Malik’s birthdate because it’s a “real probability” that Malik doesn’t know his age. He could be closer to 18 years of age at the time of the incident. He immigrated from Eritrea, Africa, and Ethiopia to the United States and doesn’t know his actual birth date. His birth date is Jan. 1, but according to research that’s a common date assigned by immigration officials to those coming from counties with no proof of age. If age can’t be proven, then the statutory rape can’t be proven.

U.S. Magistrate Jon Scoles said Malik would be 21 or 22 years of age according to information he gave pretrial services officials. Malik first said he was 22 but now says differently because “maybe he’s been advised” of the age issue. Scoles said the age issue will be up for a jury to decide.

Wolson also said the government’s argument regarding Malik’s ties to a foreign country weren’t valid because it’s not easy to go back to that country and it would also take money, which Malik doesn’t have. He qualified for a federal public defender.

Gerald Kucera, Issa’s attorney, said he is also a refugee from Africa and has parents and siblings in South Dakota. Issa had been out on bail since he was charged in state court and had never attempted to flee the country.

Wolson and Kucera said both defendants had no previous criminal history and neither were a danger to the community.

Scoles said he was detaining them pending trial set Sept. 30, because both were charged with a serious offense, which is a crime of violence according to the law, and they did present a danger to the community by taking a 13-year-old across state lines.