Convicted US paedophile faces new child sex charges

Photo by: Pha Lina
American Michael James Dodd leaves Phnom Penh Municipal Court after a hearing on Monday. Dodd, who was convicted in a separate case in August, told the court he was not guilty of purchasing child sex.

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court on Monday heard the case of a convicted American paedophile facing a second round of charges of purchasing underage sex, this time based on a complaint from a 12-year-old Cambodian girl.

Michael James Dodd, 60, was arrested last August in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district and charged with purchasing child sex in two separate cases, one involving a 14-year-old Vietnamese girl and the other a 12-year-old Cambodian girl. He was convicted later that month under Article 34 of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. The court sentenced him to 10 years in prison and ordered him to pay 20 million riels (US$4,824) in compensation.

Judge Chhay Kong said Monday that a verdict in the case of the Cambodian girl is expected January 28.

Reporters were barred from attending Monday’s hearing. “We decided to hold a closed-door hearing due to the fact that the girl is 12 years old,” Chhay Kong said.

In interviews after the hearing, however, lawyers for the victim said the court had yet to confirm the victim’s age, a factor that will weigh significantly on the sentence handed down in the case of a guilty verdict.

One of the victim’s lawyers, Peng Maneth, provided by the child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said judges were relying on a police document stating that the victim is 12, but that other documents indicate she is older.

“Our organisation has found her age to be over 15 years old, as she was born in 1992, according to birth and family documents certified by local authorities,” Peng Maneth said. If the court determines that the victim was older than 15 at the time of the crime, he said, Dodd “will be convicted and sentenced from two to five years in prison if found guilty”.

The victim’s other lawyer, Nuon Phanith, also from APLE, said Dodd claimed he had been friends with the girl but was not guilty of the charges facing him.

The victim, Nuon Phanith said, told the court that Dodd had abused her on two separate occasions at a guesthouse in Daun Penh and a third time at his rented house in Boeung Keng Kang I commune, adding that he had paid her on each occasion.

Dodd’s lawyer, Meng Sotheary, said after the hearing that his client was innocent.

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