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 imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed strong dismay on Monday over the designation of Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap and General Kun Kim under the US’ Global Magnitsky Act. “It is very disturbing when the public figures of a country become the

  • Mother, daughter killed in hotel fire

    The bodies of a mother and daughter were found locked in an embrace after they were killed in a hotel fire in Phnom Penh at around 3:30am on Wednesday at the Phkar Chhouk Tep 2 Hotel and Restaurant in Phsar Doeum Kor commune, in the capital’

  • EBA withdrawal a destruction of EU achievements, PM says

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the EU’s possible suspension of its Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement amounted to a destruction of its achievements in the Kingdom and the demise of the opposition group. Hun Sen made the remarks while addressing more than 6,700 students during

  • US told to refrain from interfering in Sokha case

    Senior Cambodian officials said on Thursday that the US can monitor Kem Sokha’s trial as it wishes but would not be allowed to interfere in court procedures. The point was made in response to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments on Wednesday

  • Europe expected to consider EBA efforts, impact

    The government said it expects the European Commission to consider its efforts to comply with the “Everything But Arms” (EBA) regulations and the impact on one million workers should access to the agreement be suspended in February. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

  • Sri Lanka’s LOLC Holdings plans to sell Cambodian unit

    LOLC Holdings Plc, Sri Lanka’s second-largest publicly traded company by revenue, plans to sell its 70 per cent stake in Prasac Microfinance Institution Ltd, which also counts Hong Kong’s Bank of East Asia Ltd. as a shareholder, LOLC deputy chairman Ishara Nanayakkara said. Nanayakkara