Former Purdue student to be deported despite victim's plea
By Sandra Chapman, WTHR investigative reporter - bio | email
LAFAYETTE, Ind. -
A former Purdue University student in the custody of immigration will be deported out of the country for a crime his victim says he's more than paid for.
George Odongo has exhausted his last appeal in hopes of getting a new trial. In just 10 days, the former Purdue scholar will leave his cell for good. On July 29, U.S. Immigration plans to deport him to Kenya, which is his birth home, but a place he knows little about.
"It's kind of like a nightmare," Odongo told 13 Investigates during a jailhouse interview last fall in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he's in custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
That nightmare that began Odongo's first week on campus back in 2007. The 19-year-old incoming freshman on scholarship went to a party and ended up behind bars for touching another student and putting his hands down her pants, causing injury.
Odongo claimed the contact was consensual, but was convicted of sexual battery and criminal deviate conduct and ended up serving four years of an eight-year prison sentence.
Under Indiana law, he was also labeled a sexually violent predator, a label his victim says doesn't fit.
"It's hard for me to think of him as a violent predator," the woman told 13 Investigates from the campus of her law school.
She had hoped an appeal would set Odongo free. But 13 Investigates has learned Odongo's last ditch effort failed.
Court records show his petition for post-conviction relief was denied by Don Daniel, the same Tippecanoe County judge that presided over his case. In the petition, Odongo argued his attorney provided ineffective counsel.
That attorney, Daniel Moore, spoke with 13 Investigates last fall about Odongo's case.
"Even if you believe George is guilty, a young kid who on his first day in college made a mistake," Moore said of Odongo.
The judge ruled Odongo's attorney was effective, despite his decision not to seek cell phone records or possible video of the night in question.
"Contact was not denied, part of the defense strategy was to show 'the victim's ability to have asked for help if she wanted to (but) had turned it down...'," he wrote. "The fact that the victim took a phone call in the middle of the alleged assault was...tremendously impactful in her credibility and the reality of whether or not she was being assaulted."
Odongo's family questions that impact because of his conviction.
The one thing the court didn't hear was new testimony from the victim - the very woman who says Odongo should get a second chance.
"It would have been nice to have been contacted," she told 13 Investigates after learning about the new ruling.
The young woman told 13 Investigates by phone she feels for Odongo and his family in Indianapolis. She says he's paid for his mistake and despite federal law, sees Odongo's deportation as a harsh consequence.
"I don't think he should be continually punished because he was a young kid, he was drinking, he was doing what regular college kids do. He made a bad choice but I don't think it should have such a permanent effect," she said.
Eyewitness News reached out to the Tippecanoe County Prosecutor's Office for comment and is still awaiting a response.