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latest news Ex-Marine sentenced to prison for raping girls in Cambodia

A former Marine Corps captain who authorities say traveled to Cambodia in 2005 to drug, rape and sexually abuse young girls was sentenced Monday to 210 years in federal prison.

Michael Joseph Pepe, 68, has been in federal custody since 2007 and was previously convicted on separate charges that were dismissed in 2018. He was sentenced on Monday by U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who called his actions of “monstrous” and “horrible”. according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

“What he did to those preteen girls…was torture,” Fischer said, adding that there was “no justification for a sentence that would ever allow [Pepe] get out of prison. »

Jurors heard testimony during a seven-day trial in August of eight victims who were just 9 years old when Pepe abused them, prosecutors said.

Each victim testified that Pepe sexually assaulted them, with several saying he tied them up, drugged them, beat them and raped them.

Evidence supporting their testimony, including homemade child sexual abuse footage, was presented in court, prosecutors said.

Pepe was originally arrested in Cambodia in 2006 and taken to the United States, where he was charged in early 2007.

He was convicted by a jury in May 2008 of seven counts, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

According to testimony presented during his initial three-week trial, Pepe was working as a civilian teacher in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, when he hired a prostitute to provide children for their families in 2005 and 2006.

In addition to victims’ testimony, prosecutors showed jurors restraints, sedatives and child sexual abuse footage seized by Cambodian national police during a raid on Pepe’s home in 2006.

Cambodian police began investigating Pepe after one of his victims came forward. US authorities joined the investigation at the request of their Cambodian counterparts.

Despite a swift guilty verdict from the jury, the case was thrown into jeopardy after prosecutors revealed the lead investigator had a sexual relationship with a Vietnamese interpreter who translated for some of the girls.

Pepe’s defense attorney argued that the relationship between ICE Special Agent Gary J. Phillips and the interpreter tainted the girls’ testimony.

After a long legal battle, he was sentenced in 2014 to 210 years in federal prison.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that conviction in 2018 and authorities retried Pepe on new charges.

He was convicted in August of two counts of traveling in foreign trade with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, and two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, said federal prosecutors.

A restitution hearing is scheduled for February 28.

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