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Ex-Marine Gets 210-Year Sentence For Sex Abuse in Cambodia

Michael Pepe, a retired U.S. Marine captain, was sentenced to 210 years in prison for drugging and raping underage girls as young as nine in Cambodia, Courthouse News reports. During his trial, eight victims testified that they were held by for weeks or months on end by Pepe at a house he rented in Phnom Penh. While there, Pepe drugged and raped them. He was aided by a local prostitute that helped Pepe procure young girls, including her own niece, and acted as an interpreter for him. Authorities arrested Pepe, now 68, in Cambodia in 2006. After his 2008 conviction, Pepe sought to bribe both the prostitute who aided him and the mothers of the young girls he had abused to recant their testimony.

This apparently was part of a bid for a new trial. He wanted the mothers to say that they knew nothing of the abuse, and that his financial support had helped them feed and clothe their children. After prosecutors found evidence of this, which was to take place through intermediaries in Australia, Pepe dropped his bid for a new trial and was sentenced in 2014. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned his conviction in 2018, due to the fact that in 2005 and 2006, when the crimes were committed, U.S. law prohibiting travel for the purpose of sexual abuse necessitated a finding that the U.S. citizen had traveled abroad for that purpose. This finding was not made at the initial trial, because Pepe did not travel to Cambodia as an act of sex tourism. In the second trial, prosecutors were able to show that trips Pepe made back to Cambodia after attending his son's graduation and daughter's wedding in 2005 qualified as trips made for the purpose of sexual abuse. The law was amended in 2013 to include U.S. citizens who have relocated to a foreign country.


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