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The Trump White House just got a stark reminder that everyone is innocent until proven guilty

Never let the truth get in the way of some good demagoguery.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

“The idea that this occurred is shocking, disturbing, horrific,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a briefing last March, in response to rape allegations against two immigrant teenagers. He added that “part of the reason that the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this.”

It was a charged moment, where the White House itself tried to pin the alleged sins of two young men upon millions of immigrants throughout the nation. And, it appears, it was also rooted in false facts.

Prosecutors in Maryland announced on Friday that they will drop rape charges against the two teens, after concluding that “the original charges cannot be sustained and prosecution is untenable.” Among other things, prosecutors uncovered text messages between one of the teens and the alleged victim which suggested that she consented to have sex with him.

Though the rape charges cannot be sustained, the Washington Post reports that prosecutors are still considering child pornography charges, apparently based on part of the evidence that helped clear the teens of the rape charges: sexts exchanged by the alleged victim and one of the teens. One of the teens’ attorneys has denounced these potential charges, labeling them “selective prosecution” of a common “behavior for teenagers.”

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In any event, Spicer’s story of dangerous rapist immigrants preying on innocent young girls appears to have fallen apart. Nevertheless, the White House remains unapologetic for allowing its rhetoric to get ahead of the facts.

At Friday’s press briefing, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that “Sean was speaking about what he knew at the time” and declined to “retract anything without further information in front of me.”

Last month, the Trump administration opened its Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office, which exists to track crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.