A man accused of breaking into USU dorms and sexually assaulting a resident was granted release from jail on Monday.
Ismael Kalani Vaifo’ou, 22, appeared in 1st District Court via video conference call from the Cache County Jail. During his appearance, Judge Angela Fonnesbeck denied the prosecutors’ motion for detention and ordered Vaifoou released on pretrial supervision.
Fonnesbeck ordered that Vaifo’ou be banned from any Utah State University campus, to reside with his family outside of Cache Valley and to be tracked by an ankle monitor with additional conditions of release.
If the order was not followed strictly, Fonnesbeck said, Vaifo’ou would be sent back to jail to “sit there” until the case was resolved.
Cache County prosecutor Dane Murray argued the facts of the case warranted Vaifo’ou’s continued incarceration. Murray said Vaifo’ou had no prior relationship with the alleged victim, and that he posed risks to her and the public.
Defense attorney Cara Tangaro told the court while there was “no doubt” Vaifo’ou entered the rooms, other charges would be “difficult” for the prosecution to prove. According to Tangaro, Vaifo’ou had a friend recently die in a head-on collision, which may have impacted his behavior in hard-to-predict ways.
“He’s a very young man,” Tangaro told the court. “This incident… was an outlier.”
Charges were initially filed against Vaifo’ou on April 19 one day after the alleged incident.
Vaifo’ou was initially charged with four second-degree felonies — a single count of burglary and three counts of forcible sexual abuse — and three misdemeanors. Prior to his initial appearance, prosecutors filed an amended information tacking on one count of first-degree rape.
Murray told The Herald Journal the additional charge stemmed from further interviews with the alleged victim and other witnesses. The interviews were presented to prosecutors after the initial charges had been filed, Murray said.
Usually, according to Murray, sexual assault cases are investigated over a period of weeks. This case, however, was unique in that the investigation was conducted over the course of a couple of days. Murray said police were unable to immediately and thoroughly interview the alleged victim because she was whisked away quickly for treatment.
Murray said as the situation stands, additional charges against Vaifo’ou are unlikely.
According to documents filed with the court, it’s alleged an intoxicated Vaifo’ou entered several suites and bedrooms left unlocked or tampered with by residents so doors “would not latch.” Utah State University police officers wrote Vaifo’ou entered the alleged victim’s room while she was sleeping, stripped to his underwear and entered her bed. It’s alleged Vaifo’ou inappropriately touched the alleged victim before being pushed out and told to leave.
Vaifo’ou was booked into jail on April 18.
According to a statement from USU, Vaifo’ou has been suspended from the football team and team activities. He has also been barred from the campus “without a police escort.”
“Our first priority in any situation involving a crime is the safety of our students and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of any victims involved,” said USU spokesperson Amanda DeRito in the statement.