An Oklahoma man was sentenced to 40 years in prison Monday after being found guilty in U.S. federal court of sexually abusing children while he volunteered at a Kenyan orphanage.
Matthew Lane Durham, 21, of Edmond, Oklahoma, was convicted by a jury in June for "engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places."
In April 2014, when he was 19, Durham had traveled to the Upendo Children’s Home in Juja, about an hour outside of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to volunteer for the fourth time. While there, he sexually assaulted at least three girls — ages 5, 9, and 15 — and a 12-year-old boy.
Durham was alleged to have confessed to the abuse while in Kenya, but was able to leave the country before local authorities could bring charges.
However, U.S. federal law gives American courts jurisdiction over certain sex crimes committed by citizens against minors abroad.
Durham was initially found guilty on seven charges, but a judge acquitted him on three counts in January, citing prosecutors' failure to establish that he had engaged in a sexual act with one of the victims.
In their February sentencing memorandum, prosecutors said Durham's actions had negatively impacted Kenyans' perceptions of foreign volunteers.
"His actions have had a chilling effect on the lives of dozens of foreign volunteers in Kenya and elsewhere who must now live under the cloud of suspicion, distrust, and apprehension when they volunteer their time, talent, and resources for the betterment of children in East Africa and beyond," prosecutors said.
In their victim impact statements, the Kenyan children asked the court to imprison Durham for "a long time."
"The children worry that, one day, the defendant will be released from prison," prosecutors said. "That one day he may harm them again."
In addition to his jail sentence, Durham was ordered to pay restitution of $15,863.
Durham told the sentencing judge he had been trying to "follow God's plan."
“Judgement of God is central, not the judgement of man," he said, according to local TV station KFOR. "I do not fear God’s judgement."
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
Contact David Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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