US Army Deserter Deported to Face Charges

U.S. Army deserter Michael Harris, who sparked a two-week manhunt in Cambodia when he was found to be living in Sihanoukville after fleeing charges of child sex abuse and possession of child pornography, was due to be deported back to the U.S. early Wednesday morning, police said.

Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, said he was proud of Cambodian police for tracking down and apprehending the 34-year-old in Kratie City on October 28 after he initially evaded arrest in Sihanoukville two weeks earlier.

Michael Harris (Courtesy of Denise Diaz)
Michael Harris (Courtesy of Denise Diaz)

“This was a successful effort by our police to have arrested the soldier in Cambodia after he fled across many countries because he was involved in child rape,” Mr. Heisela said, adding that the fugitive would be handed over to the U.S. Marshals Service.

“We will bring Michael Harris to Phnom Penh International Airport at 11 p.m. and he will be sent back to his country at about 12 a.m. via [South] Korea on an Eva Air plane, accompanied by two U.S. [marshals].”

Wayne Hall, a U.S. Army media relations officer, said by email Tuesday that he did not know if Mr. Harris would first face desertion charges or be sent to Orlando, where he fled bail on January 17 to avoid 44 counts of possession of child pornography.

“I do not have any specific answers yet,” Mr. Hall said. “However, [in light of his] background I would suggest that desertion may very well be the least severe of the charges he faces.”

Mr. Harris is also charged with sexually abusing two children of his ex-wife, Denise Diaz.

Ms. Diaz last month learned through social media that her former husband was working as a dog trainer in Sihanoukville and alerted authorities.

“I would like all his charges heard at the same time” in order to expedite his prosecution, she said via email from her home in Kentucky. “I just hope the United States Judicial System doesn’t fail.”

“It is my hope that Cambodia continues to have no tolerance for fugitives hiding in their country as they did with this case,” she added.

henderson@cambodiadaily.com, narim@cambodiadaily.com

© 2014, All rights reserved.