A local student and former security guard at Santa Barbara City College will face two counts of rape and one count of burglary at a preliminary hearing, the date of which will be set at a meeting in Santa Barbara County Superior Court today.
Joyce Dudley, Santa Barbara County senior deputy district attorney, said that, after the preliminary hearing, a trial is expected to take place before the end of the year. Kent Kafatia, a 22-year-old student studying abroad in the U.S., is accused of raping a 20-year-old woman and a 51-year-old woman on the morning of Nov. 14, said Lt. Paul McCaffrey, a Santa Barbara Police Dept. spokesman. The count of residential burglary stems from Kafatia’s alleged unlawful entrance into the 51-year-old woman’s residence for the purpose of committing a felony, McCaffrey said.
At his Nov. 17 arraignment, Kafatia pleaded not guilty, Dudley said.
“At the moment, his sentence could be between eight and 10 years,” Dudley said. “If more evidence or victims are added, this could raise or lower [the sentence].”
She also said the Santa Barbara Police Dept. (SBPD) would continue to investigate whether there are other victims or witnesses to the crimes.
Kafatia has remained in jail since his Nov. 14 arrest. His bail, after being increased twice last week, is set at $500,000, Dudley said.
“[Kafatia] is from the country of Malawi in Africa, and has been in town for a few years,” McCaffrey said. “This is an important case because there are multiple victims, and we feel it’s very serious because of the set of crimes that were committed. We are concerned that he will try to flee the country and that the community is in danger. If we increase the bail, we will have more time to prepare the case and gather information about him.”
Dudley said the court process would not change in any way because Kafatia is not an American citizen. Kafatia does have the ability to request a bail reduction hearing, McCaffrey said.
Santa Barbara County public defender Karen Atkins, Kafatia’s legal counsel, said she plans to defend him vigorously, but declined further comment.
McCaffrey said Kafatia, a former student at SBCC who worked as a security guard there, allegedly raped a 20-year-old woman after offering to give her a ride home at 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 14 in a dark pickup truck marked with white SBCC emblems. Instead of driving her home, he allegedly drove her to a quiet neighborhood near La Marina Drive and Del Oro Avenue and raped her after threatening to harm her if she did not comply, McCaffrey said.
“She managed to escape by opening the door with her foot, sliding out and [running] screaming into the night,” McCaffrey said. “Witnesses described waking up to her screams, followed by a car door slamming and a vehicle racing away. They found the sobbing woman in the street, saying she had just been raped.”
SBPD officers who responded to a witness’ emergency call found an unattended vehicle at SBCC that matched the description given by the victim, McCaffrey said. He said police later arrested Kafatia, who was on-duty at the time, after the victim identified him as the perpetrator.
A 51-year-old woman reported the second alleged rape at 9 a.m. on Nov. 14, McCaffrey said. She called the SBPD to report that she had been raped the night before. McCaffrey said the woman suspected Kafatia, an acquaintance of hers, because they had had dinner eight weeks ago and, since then, he had repeatedly called her and asked her to have sex with him. The woman refused the requests, McCaffrey said.
“[On Nov. 13] at 11 p.m., Kafatia phoned wanting to have sex with [the 51-year-old woman],” McCaffrey said. “She said no and to not call again. The victim was drinking heavily and passed out due to intoxication. She awoke to unfamiliar pain and discomfort. She discovered a used condom on the floor and called police.”
Bill Schlotter of the UCSB Office of Public Affairs said Kafatia was a student at SBCC and transferred to UCSB as a junior chemistry major for Summer Quarter. Schlotter said he did not know Kafatia’s current registration status as of Monday afternoon.
According to its Web site, which was taken down after Kafatia’s arrest, Friends of Kent, a charity formed by Santa Barbara residents who were former Peace Corps volunteers in Africa, was financing Kafatia’s education. The charity was formed in January 2004 to raise funds for his tuition, fees and books.
“The Friends of Kent committee was established to raise funds to support Kent Kafatia’s educational expenses,” Friends of Kent said in a statement. “We know him to be a serious and deeply dedicated student. We are shocked, heartsick and worried about this situation.”