Stick to facts on case of Indian snowshoer

Let’s make sure we all understand the facts, such as they are publicly known, in the case of a snowshoe racer from India’s Kashmir region who is set to stand trial for allegedly having inappropriate contact with a 12-year-old Saranac Lake girl.

The reason we write this is that many of the comments we read on Facebook and hear around town are, to put it gently, uninformed. Some people clearly don’t read beyond headlines. Some make up facts to suit whatever conclusion they have drawn about the case: guilty or innocent. Some make things up to fit their political leanings or racial prejudices. And they are not shy about spouting publicly.

In one of the worst examples, a reader posted on an Enterprise story about this case, “President Trump warned us that these Illegal Aliens are Rapists!” That is incorrect — regarding both illegal alien status and rape — as well as asinine, racist, mean and wrongly tying this to an immigration issue it has nothing to do with. We probably cannot convince such readers to stick to facts, but for everyone else who is willing to read this, we hope these reminders do some good.

If you know all these things already, all we can say is thank you for paying attention.

First, let’s clarify what Hussain is accused of doing. It’s not rape, as some have ignorantly posted online. Police and prosecutors say he kissed the girl passionately and touched her breast outside her clothing. That, to use the classic American adolescent baseball-sex metaphor, is halfway between first and second base. However, when one of the two people engaged is such behavior is 12 and the other is 24, it’s illegal. Hussain stands charged with felony sexual abuse and two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child. On top of that, it’s gravely offensive to come to someone else’s country and behave that way. If he did it — and we don’t know that yet — he deserves the penalty the law prescribes. Hussain insists he did not touch the girl, rather that he rebuffed her advances.

Second is Hussain’s status in this country. He is not an “illegal immigrant,” as we have seen posted online. He came to the U.S. on a visa, which he obtained by going through the legal application process in advance from his home country. The U.S. embassy initially rejected his application, and he was prepared not to come, but then, under questioning from U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, the embassy issued the visa and let him come.

Third is where his case is at in the legal process. Hussain has not been convicted, as some Facebook comments implied; he has been indicted. An indictment is when a grand jury, a specialty jury of citizens who handle multiple cases, decides there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. A conviction happens at the end of a trial if a jury, or in some cases a judge, determines the defendant is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.

Key evidence in this case has not yet come to light, such as witnesses’ testimony and electronic messages sent between the girl and Hussain. Interestingly, the man hosting Hussain while he’s on bail says that because Hussain’s English was too rudimentary to send those texts, he got a friend in India to write the flirtatious messages. That calls to mind Cyrano de Bergerac, the French soldier of literature who wrote eloquent love letters to woo his beloved Roxane, but all on his friend’s behalf.

This case leaves much yet to be revealed, and therefore it would be wise to withhold judgment for now.