Sentencing Date Set for March in Oklahoma Missionary Sex Abuse Case

Sentencing has been set for Matthew Lane Durham, the Edmond, Oklahoma missionary convicted of sexually abusing multiple children at an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya.

Durham was initially convicted of seven counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places after being accused of raping and sexually assaulting six girls and one boy at the Upendo Children's Home, an organization for which he had volunteered several times. 

The man, who was 18 at the time of the allegations, admitted to abusing the children, but his defense team argued that his confession was coerced, with the orphanage administrator confiscating his passport. The young man's mother testified that she told him to say whatever they wanted to hear in order to get home again so they could straighten everything out.

His attorney called his conviction a miscarriage of justice and filed an appeal. In the meantime, the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office provided information to the federal judge that indicated the possibility of prosecutorial misconduct. The Oklahoma County D.A.'s Office said it had information that the federal prosecutor may have withheld medical evidence. They say the prosecution failed to disclose that a local pediatrician gave information that directly contradicted the testimony of a Kenyan doctor who said he examined the girls six weeks after the alleged assaults and found internal injuries consistent with abuse. The local doctor said it would be unusual to find internal injuries at all without the use of an instrument, much less six weeks after the rape.

And while Durham is awaiting sentencing, a judge has thrown out three of the seven convictions, citing insufficient evidence to convict on those counts.

Prosecutors last week asked the judge to sentence Durham to 30 years in prison for each of the remaining convictions--the maximum sentence for each count. Additionally, they asked the judge to order the sentences to run consecutively, totaling 120 years in prison.

They point to the alleged destruction that has taken place as a result of the sex abuse scandal: children are emotionally scarred, male volunteers are held in suspicion, and the process of adopting these children has become more complicated.

Durham's attorney calls the prosecution's request "extreme and punitive and nonsensical." He calls the government's request for consecutive maximum sentences "out of proportion to the evidence, to the facts, to the character of the defendant and the circumstances of the case."

Sentencing is scheduled for March 7.

Image Credit: okwd.uscourts.gov

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