A 49-year-old Iraqi refugee who came to the U.S. in 2003 has fled the country 48 hours before he was to stand trial in Kennewick, Washington, for allegedly raping a grade-school girl.
Khalid Fathey reportedly boarded a flight for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Authorities issued a nationwide arrest warrant this week after he failed to show at his Benton County Superior Court trial, a local newspaper reported.
The U.S. Marshals Service then discovered that Fathey left Seattle on July 23 on a plane bound for Dubai, Anita Petra, deputy county prosecutor, told the Tri-Cities Herald.
She did not know if it was a one-way or round trip ticket. Either way, the cost would have been substantial but authorities haven’t said if they believe someone helped him get away.
Fathey was set free on a personal recognizance bond after he was charged with the sex crimes in May 2015. Having been in the country since 2003 he would have at least had a green card, which affords permanent resident status, but likely had full U.S. citizenship. Refugees qualify for full citizenship after five years.
Judge Vic VanderSchoor waited 1 1/2 hours Monday – in case Fathey had car trouble or another problem – before calling off the trial, releasing the jurors and ordering the bench warrant for the fugitive’s arrest.
“Needless to say, the victim’s family was very upset by the news,” Petra told the Herald. “They wanted justice in this case and for this case to be over.”
Kevin Holt, who is Fahey’s lawyer, said his client is from northern Iraq. Fathey had been in the Iraqi military and worked with the United States government after the 2003 invasion, he told the Herald.
Since Fathey was no longer welcome in Iraq under the new regime, he sought asylum and came to the United States with his wife and children as refugees.
He is far from alone.
More than 133,000 Iraqi refugees have been brought to the U.S. since the 2003 invasion that toppled the secular government of Saddam Hussein, according to the U.S. State Department Refugee Processing Center. And they’re still coming. In fiscal 2015 more than 27,000 Iraqi refugees arrived in the United States where they were resettled in almost every state, according to the database. And so far in fiscal 2016, which ends Oct. 1, a total of 6,996 Iraqi refugees have arrived in more than 270 cities as diverse as Detroit, Dearborn and Las Vegas to Salt Lake City, Twin Falls, Idaho, and San Antonio, Texas. Another 13 Iraqis have arrived in Kennewick, Washington, just in the current fiscal year.
The problem of refugees from the Middle East and African nations sexually assaulting women and girls in their adopted countries is not new. An epidemic of groping, molestation and rape has engulfed Sweden and Germany, which have taken in the most Muslim migrants in the current wave of refugees from the Middle East.
In the U.S. three refugee boys, one from Iraq and two from Sudan, were charged in June with sexually assaulting a 5-year-old special-needs girl in Twin Falls, Idaho, as WND reported.
Attorney blames local residents
Fathey and his wife were paid by the state for four years to be full-time caregivers for a Tri-City woman who had medical issues, Holt told the local newspaper.
Fathey denies the charges, saying they were made up by the girl’s family. His attorney, Holt, complained to the Herald that Fathey and his family had to move to Spokane from Kennewick about six months ago because they were “afraid for their safety in the Tri-Cities, especially after someone reportedly set fire to their car.”
“It really is a sad situation where our system has gotten so biased that a person has to fear for his life and would run, as opposed to face justice,” Holt told the newspaper.
Prosecutors allege the girl’s mother became suspicious in December 2014 when she found the girl and Fathey together, and Fathey “appeared nervous.”
The girl later disclosed to her mother that Fathey allegedly kissed her and touched her sexually several times over a six-month period. Fathey “told (the girl) never to tell or she was going to get in trouble,” according to documents cited by the Herald.
Before the police were involved, court documents say Fathey called his “religious leader,” who had them sit down together with the girl’s parents. Fathey admitted to inappropriate touching but would not elaborate, according to the documents.
The girl’s mother fainted during the meeting, and police were called.
A no-show on court date
Holt, who was hired by Fathey, said he met with his client July 21 for about eight hours and then prepared for the trial.
“He assured me that he would be here Monday morning,” Holt said.
Fathey’s brother showed up at Holt’s office as scheduled at 8 a.m. and the two headed to court, the Herald reports. They never heard from Fathey.
Holt said he has not seen an actual report from the Marshals Service that his client fled the country. The brother was supposed to call him with an update on Wednesday afternoon.
Fathey is charged with one count of first-degree rape of a child and two counts of first-degree child molestation. All three counts include the aggravating circumstance that he used a position of trust to commit the crimes.
If somebody sees Fathey, they are asked to call Benton County dispatch at 509-628-0333.