The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday sentenced a 58-year-old US man to a year in prison for indecent acts committed on four underage girls in a rented Daun Penh district house where he gave free English language lessons.
Presiding Judge Chhay Kong said the court also decided to fine Harvey Alexander Johnson $1,000 and ordered him to pay the father of one of the girls, the only one to press charges, $3,000 in compensation and to expel him from Cambodia on completing of his jail term.
Municipal police arrested Johnson in Srah Chak commune on Aug 9. During a closed-door hearing on Tuesday, he denied the charges and insisted that he had only touched the girls as a teacher to a student, according to Judge Kong, who said testimony from one of the girls refuted the claim.
“The victim who was 13 years old told the court that Johnson touched her vagina and breasts and placed her hand on his penis,” the judge said.
Noun Phanith, the girl’s lawyer, welcomed the court’s decision.
“The verdict of the municipal court is justice for my client. I and my client can accept it,” he said. “Moreover, we are pleased the judge used his discretion to hand down additional punishments on the defendant.”
Johnson’s lawyer, Dun Vibol, who on Tuesday said the court should acquit his client, yesterday accepted the jail term.
“The court’s decision to sentence my client to one year in jail is suitable but the fine and compensation is a big amount,” he said. “My client has no money to pay because he is a poor man.”
According to his lawyer, Johnson came to Cambodia at the urging of a friend who invited him to come here to give free English lessons to the children of poor families.
Samleang Seila, country director for the anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said his staff had urged the police to keep an eye on Johnson, who they had suspected of being a child abuser, more than one year ago.