Case closed: defendants accused of alleged assault on Cameroonian homosexual say there was never an assault
Rodrigue Fodjo-Kamdem and Christian Djoko say they were taken aback when they were arrested in November 2018, accused of having committed a hate crime. They denied assaulting a gay man outside his north Seattle apartment or participating in an online homophobic smear campaign against the man who, like them, came to the United States from Central African country Cameroon. where homosexuality is illegal.
“It was all a made-up story but no one believed us. He invented evidence, ”said Djoko, now 30.
Originally filed in King County Superior Court, the criminal case against the men and a third co-accused, Marie Fanyo-Patchou, 25, was transferred to Seattle U.S. District Court in August 2019, where the trio were charged with conspiracy to engage in cyberbullying and interstate cyberbullying.
These charges were dismissed last week.
Fodjo-Kamdem, who was a close friend of the alleged victim, and Djoko, who says he became a target after pushing back the man’s romantic overtures, believe they were involved so that the man, entered the United States in 2014 on a student visa, can apply for asylum due to hostility against homosexuals in Cameroon.
The Seattle Times reported on hate crime charges filed by King County prosecutors against Fodjo-Kamdem and Djoko on November 20, 2018, about a month after the alleged victim claimed to have been ambushed, having wrists stuck in his back and was violently shaken by his ears. He then told police his attackers spoke to him in French, called him various derogatory names regarding his sexual orientation and said he needed to change, according to prosecution documents.
Fodjo-Kamdem and Djoko said in recent interviews that they had lost friendships and had seen their reputations tarnished as a result of the allegations. Djoko, who was three classes away from graduating from college in accounting at the time of his arrest, said he was kicked out of the school and is now trying to reinstate his student visa.
Fodjo-Kamdem, 35, is an American citizen. He said he was in his Lynnwood apartment when the alleged victim claimed he was assaulted – and his cell phone records proved he was talking to his fiancee. Djoko said he offered his cell phone and internet recordings to authorities to show he was at his home in Edmonds, but it is not clear whether his electronic devices were searched.
Fanyo-Patchou, who was added as an accused after the case was transferred to federal court, was studying in Germany before coming to the United States in 2017 to live with the alleged victim, who she was apparently dating, according to court records. At the time she was arrested in 2019, she was living in the Washington, DC area and had a baby with a new partner, records show.
She was accused of posting intimate photos of the man and her husband on social media sites and sending messages encouraging the man to take his own life, which the alleged victim said the led to receiving other threatening text messages and voicemail messages.
“She’s happy,” defense lawyer Mike Iaria said of Fanyo-Patchou’s reaction to the news that charges were dropped. “It certainly put [her life] on hold for almost two years.
The Seattle Times, which does not name the alleged victim because he was not charged with a crime, tried to contact him but to no avail. An email to the local Seattle office of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, requesting information about the man’s immigration status, was not answered.
Emily Langlie, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle, said via email that the government has no plans to lay additional charges.
“After a thorough review of the evidence, including information obtained since the indictment was filed, prosecutors have decided not to pursue the case,” Langlie wrote in the email.
Citing US Department of Justice policies, Langlie wrote: “We are unable to provide information on the thoughts and conclusions of Department of Justice attorneys or on the specific analysis that led to the decision. to request dismissal ”.
Court records, however, indicate that defense attorneys representing Fodjo-Kamdem, Djoko and Fanyo-Patchou conducted their own investigations and detailed a large number of lies involving the alleged victim, including bogus marriages with two men and evidence that his mother fabricated medical records after claiming she too was assaulted in Cameroon because of her son’s sexual orientation.
The alleged victim also refused to turn his cell phone over to the Seattle Police or the FBI, who were unable to analyze the phone’s location data or text messages that were allegedly sent to the man via the ‘WhatsApp application, according to court records.
“The only evidence the government had were screenshots of screenshots on the complainant’s phone, which he refused to hand over,” Iaria said.
The alleged victim in the case stole Fodjo-Kamdem’s identity and impersonated him to get a job, Fodjo-Kamdem’s lawyer Robert Flennaugh said in an email. Court records show the man worked at a Burger King restaurant in Bellevue.
“The government should never have accused Rodrigue Fodjo Kamdem and his two friends of a crime. … In short, what the alleged victim told the government just wasn’t true, ”Flennaugh wrote in a statement on the case. “On behalf of Mr. Kamdem, we are pleased that the government has done the right thing in closing the case. Although the government did not specify the reasons for their dismissal, we suspect they found similar untruths that the defense uncovered. “
Although his client is delighted the case has been closed, “it’s a bittersweet victory,” Flennaugh wrote. “Now he has the daunting task of trying to regain his reputation.”
News researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story, which includes information from the Seattle Times archives.