- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 16, 2004

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Chol Deng Chol fled civil war in Sudan with dreams of getting an American education and one day returning home to help repair his country.

Today, he sits in jail in his adopted homeland, charged with rape and facing deportation if convicted. His case has embarrassed many who championed the so-called “Lost Boys of Sudan,” the thousands of orphans who have resettled in America.

Mr. Chol, 25, a second-year civil-engineering student at North Dakota State University, was one of the first Lost Boys to arrive in Fargo. He cruised through the general equivalency diploma program at an adult learning center and spoke at the graduation of about 100 students.

But now, Mr. Chol is accused of raping two teenage girls after a night of drinking at his apartment. He was charged April 28 with two counts of gross sexual imposition and delivering alcohol to a minor.

He pleaded not guilty to all three charges at a May 27 preliminary hearing. Authorities said Mr. Chol raped the girls, ages 14 and 16, after he and a friend supplied them with alcohol. The trial has been set for Sept. 7.

“His whole life was to come to America, get an education, go home and help his people,” said Pat Gores, who has volunteered to help many of the Sudanese refugees in Fargo.

More than 3,000 Lost Boys have been resettled in the United States, most of them orphaned by fighting between the Islamic fundamentalist government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Many spent years trekking across the desert and living in refugee camps.

Members of the Sudanese community say about 500 Sudanese families live in the area. There are many success stories, said Julie Hinkel, the city’s refugee liaison officer.

Five of the Lost Boys graduated this year from Fargo Oak Grove Lutheran High School. Four of them have been accepted at North Dakota State. Abraham Madhier, 25, said he and others would like to get college degrees and use their education to help rebuild Sudan.

“Hopefully, we can help in areas of medicine and farming and business,” Mr. Madhier said.

Mr. Chol’s case has brought embarrassment and sadness to the community. Many of the Lost Boys feel scared and ashamed, although police have heard no reports of retaliation against any of the Sudanese immigrants, Miss Hinkel said.

“They are very nervous about what they can and can’t do,” she said. “Right now, they are in a situation where they want to be friends with everyone, but they are living in fear.

“It’s a black eye for a community that, for the most part, is trying to do well to be successful.”

Mr. Chol has not responded to requests for interviews. His attorney, Thomas Edinger, did not return phone calls.

Mr. Chol’s roommates were confused because they were evicted from their apartment even though they were not involved in the incident that led to charges against him, Miss Hinkel said.

“The boys felt bad about it, and they were clearly upset and disappointed with their friends,” she said. “Ultimately, they had nothing to do with it, and yet, they had to pay.”

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