Guilty:Oklahoma man convicted of sexually assaulting Kenyan orphans

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matthewdurhamtitter-300x182OKLAHOMA CITY — A federal jury convicted an Oklahoma man on Friday of illicit sexual conduct with children at a Kenyan orphanage that specializes in caring for neglected children.

Matthew Lane Durham, 20, was found guilty of multiple federal charges of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places and faces decades in prison at sentencing.

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He was acquitted of several other charges that alleged he left Oklahoma with the intent to sexually abuse children.

Durham had served as a volunteer at the Upendo Children’s Home in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi since 2012. He was on his fourth visit when he was accused of sexually assaulting children between April and June 2014.

“The wolf in sheep’s clothing got among the lambs,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Petermann told jurors during closing arguments Thursday.

The jury deliberated for about nine hours over two days.

Orphanage officials and five of the children travelled from Kenya to testify at the trial in Oklahoma City. The children, who speak Swahili, testified through an interpreter only after the judge cleared the gallery and closed the courtroom to the public and media.

Prosecutors also presented handwritten, signed confessions that Durham gave orphanage officials after he was accused of inappropriate behaviour. Defence attorney Stephen Jones said the statements were coerced by orphanage officials who isolated Durham, took his passport and created the allegations to get $17,000 from the U.S. government for security cameras.

In the statements, Durham describes the alleged sexual assaults of a 12-year-old girl in a bathroom, and forcing another child to perform oral sex.

“It never happened. I would never do anything to hurt those kids,” Durham testified during trial.

Durham also testified about his Christian faith and his onetime belief that he was possessed by a demon that made him “do evil.” He also said that despite struggling with a temptation to touch children, he never acted on it.

Prosecutors produced a series of text messages Durham sent to friends while still in eastern Africa, saying a demon named “Luke” was controlling his behaviour. In one, Durham wrote: “He stole my passport and is trying to stop me from getting help. He wants me to stay here and do evil with him.”

The trial, which started earlier this month, was held in Oklahoma under a federal law that gives U.S. prosecutors the authority to prosecute American citizens who travel abroad for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with someone under age 16.

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