At yesterday’s Phnom Penh Municipal Court hearing of a 56-year-old US national charged with sexually abusing three boys, the deputy prosecutor said that there was not enough evidence for a conviction.
James D’Agostino, who occasionally worked as a doctor at the National Pediatric Hospital, was charged on Feb 18 for the alleged sexual abuse of three boys aged 7, 12 and 15 at his home in Phsar Doeum Kor commune.
Deputy Prosecutor Heang Sopheak told the court that though there was anecdotal evidence against D’Agostino, there was no direct evidence to issue a guilty verdict against the suspect, who he said provided financial aid to the victims.
“I think the suspect helped the victims and the victims’ families, such as paying rent and paying for school—it was humanitarian help,” he said.
At the start of D’Agostino’s hearing last month, pornographic evidence was submitted by police that, according to the victims’ lawyers, proved D’Agostino’s guilt.
During the hearing, Judge Suos Sam Ath ordered that two of the victims’ lawyers, who worked for anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, be removed from the case in response to a complaint filed by the mother of the 12-year-old boy. Police said at the time that D’Agostino had spent about $10,000 on the boys and their families over the year prior to his arrest. In police interviews after the arrest, police said the boys had accused the suspect of sexually abusing them.
Seng Sokhim, lawyer for all three victims, said at the court yesterday that there was no doubt D’Agostino was guilty.
“Please, judges, consider based on the witnesses testimony, police testimony, and evidence of pornographic photos in the complaint file that belong to the suspect,” he said.
Defense lawyer Dun Vibol said his client was innocent and that medical examinations of the children showed they had not been sexually abused.
“My client did not buy sex from the children, but he just helped them and their families,” he said.
Judge Sam Ath said the verdict would be announced Oct 24.