Case against Kansas man accused of crimes in Rwanda is dismissed

The Wichita EagleAugust 26, 2011 

WICHITA — Andre Kandy said his 84-year-old father, Lazare Kobagaya, told him about a prayer he said this week while facing deportation to Rwanda.

"He told me he got down on his knees and said, 'God, you have let me live so long, why would you have me live, just to send me back to this horrible place,' " said Kandy, a former Wichita dentist now living in Florida.

Two hours later, the call came from Kobagaya's lawyers in Kansas: Prosecutors were dropping a case that originally accused him of participating in the genocide of Rwanda.

After 2-1/2 years and more than $1 million, federal prosecutors with the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., filed to dismiss the charges this afternoon. Within a couple of hours, U.S. District Judge Monti Belot in Wichita granted that request in what authorities said was the first case involving genocide to be tried on American soil.

The prosecutors said in their motion they had failed to disclose a witness whose testimony would have been favorable to the defense. The government had known about the witness since 2008 -- five months before charges were filed against Kobagaya.

The result: Kobagaya will not lose his U.S. citizenship, face further criminal charges or deportation.

"You know, my dad is almost 85, but I think he jumped in the air when he heard the news," Kandy said of his father, who lives with another son in Topeka.

It ended an unusual case that brought some 50 witnesses from Africa to testify in a five-week trial held in Wichita this spring.

"In all honesty, the reaction has been one of relief that this is finally over," said Kurt Kerns, a Wichita attorney who represented Kobagaya.

Kobagaya was living in Wichita when a federal grand jury indicted him in January 2009, accusing him of lying on his forms to obtain American citizenship. The focus of the claims accused Kobagaya of being involved in an ethnic revolt, where 500,000 to 800,000 people died in Rwanda from April to July 1994.

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