Pedophile Suspect Did Time for Sex Crimes in US

Having already served five years in a US prison for child abuse, American Michael James Dodd, a teacher who worked at several schools in Phnom Penh, was charged Wednesday with procuring a child prostitute, officials said.

Dodd was arrested Sunday in Daun Penh district while he was with the 14-year-old girl, Interior Ministry anti-human trafficking department director Bith Kimhong said following the arrest.

Phnom Penh Deputy Prosecutor Sok Kalyan said by telephone Thurs­­day that Dodd, 59, was charged by the court with procuring a child prostitute.

However, Dodd’s lawyer, So Da­ra, claimed the victim is 17 years old, not 14, and that Dodd planned to marry her when she turned 18. So Dara added that he had already filed an appeal with the court against Dodd’s pretrial detention.

Peng Maneth, a lawyer for anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour les Enfants who is representing the victim, said she has documents to prove that the girl is 14. She said that Dodd met the girl while he was buying sunglasses from her at Phsar Thmei.

This is not the first time that Dodd has been charged with child sex crimes.

According to a newspaper report, Dodd pleaded guilty in April 2002 to sexually abusing five students at an elementary school he taught at in Saipan, one of the islands in the US commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. Dodd is listed as a “sexual offender” on the Florida Sexual Offender and Predator Web site.

Peng Maneth said Dodd had worked in at least three schools in Phnom Penh: the University of Cambodia, New World Institute and Puthisastra University.

With his record of sexual abuse, which is easily found on the Inter­net, Dodd should never have been hired as a teacher, she said.

“It’s really dangerous for English schools,” she said. “Normally, if em­ployers are caring, they would have already checked his biography.”

Rath Sokha, director of the Edu­cation Ministry’s higher education department, declined to comment on whether the ministry regulates foreign teachers in Cambodia.

University of Cambodia Admin­is­tra­tive Assistant Por Thearith confirmed that Dodd taught English at the school from February to Au­gust, before management decided to no longer offer him classes.

“We looked at his characteristics, which were not so good with the stu­dents,” he said. “So, we stopped giving him any more classes; we didn’t fire him.”

Normally, Por Thearith said, the University of Cambodia does background checks on its teachers be­fore hiring them, but he was un­sure what that entailed.

A staffer at New World Institute, who spoke on condition of anonym­ity, said Dodd worked at his school briefly in September and taught a one-hour English class five days a week but left because he wanted more hours.

“As a school, we do not feel hap­py,” he said, adding that the school will start doing background checks, using the Internet on all their existing teachers and future hires.

A receptionist for Puthisastra Uni­versity said Dodd never worked at the school.

Dodd’s case should be viewed by the country’s private schools as a cautionary tale, said social commentator Chea Vannath.

“Maybe this is a lesson for all the schools in Cambodia to check the Internet,” she said.

US Embassy spokesman John John­son declined to comment on Dodd’s case and said he was uncertain about passport is­suance policies regarding convicted sex offenders who had served prison terms.

So Dara said his client was within his rights when he traveled to Cambodia.

“The US prison released him understanding that he had changed his behavior and could travel abroad,” he said.

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