Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - US man sentenced 1 year for abusing boys

US man sentenced 1 year for abusing boys

Daniel Stephen Johnson is escorted into Phnom Penh Municipal Court
Daniel Stephen Johnson is escorted into Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday. Johnson was handed a year in prison for sexually abusing five underage Cambodian boys. Pha Lina

US man sentenced 1 year for abusing boys

Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday sentenced the American director of a Christian orphanage to a year in prison for sexually abusing five underage Cambodian boys who were in his care, a charge the defendant maintained had been trumped up by a prominent child protection group.

Presiding judge Kim Rath Narin said defendant Daniel Stephen Johnson, 36, the former director of Hope Transitions, an unlicensed orphanage in Phnom Penh, was also ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, despite his assertion that the child protection organisation Action Pour les Enfants (APLE) had bribed the families of his accusers.

Narin added that Johnson had been charged with committing an “indecent act against a minor under 15”.

Colonel Lao Lin, of the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Unit, said Johnson was arrested last December in collaboration with the FBI and APLE.

“He was arrested based on victims’ complaints,” he said.

An unnamed officer at the time said Johnson had been arrested after the FBI informed Cambodian police that he had been accused of five separate instances of raping a minor in the US.

The anti-human trafficking unit said, however, that Johnson would not be deported until he had been tried and punished for any crimes committed in Cambodia.

Though he declined to answer questions after yesterday’s hearing, Johnson provided reporters with a statement saying he was “disappointed” in the decision, accusing APLE of trumping up his case “to further build a name for them[selves]”, and calling for a “serious investigation” of the organisation.

“I have hundreds standing up for me, including the children. We have signed statements from the parent(s)/families of the children stating they were offered and/or received a bribe from those pushing this case,” the statement reads, noting that an appeal is imminent. “The same families have also written statements pleading for my release.”

APLE director Samleang Seila said yesterday that Johnson’s accusations were “simply not true”, and added that conversations on Johnson’s Facebook page indicated that he may have pressured all but one of his accusers to ultimately drop their complaints against him.

According to Seila, one of the five accusers dropped his complaint before the investigative stage. Another participated until the day of the hearing, when he sent his mother to tell the court that he would not appear, and asked to withdraw his accusation. Two others secured private representation and likewise dropped their complaints.

“If you look at the families’ situation, we don’t think they could pay this [legal] fee,” Seila said.

“Basically [there were] relationships and the pressure they had when they returned to their families; people were reaching out to them and their families to offer some support,” he added. “The four of them continued to have a relationship with people associated with Daniel Johnson, even after [his] NGO was brought down by the government.”

Seila added that the length of the sentence given to Johnson was insufficient.

“That is a very light sentence, the minimum sentence for that charge, so we are not happy with that sentence, and the fact that he did not get a deportation order after his sentence,” Seila said.

“That is making it harder for [Cambodia and the US] to work out an extradition agreement, but it is not impossible.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STUART WHITE

MOST VIEWED

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • Shipwreck found off coast of Koh Kong

    Royal Cambodian Navy researchers are working to identify a decades-old shipwreck found earlier this month off the coast of Koh Kong province. Divers found the 70-metre-long wreck on April 4 about a mile from Koh Chhlam island, according to Navy officials. Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha,