US grand jury indicts Oklahoma child abuse suspect
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A 19-year-old man is accused of traveling from Oklahoma City to Kenya so he could sexually abuse children at an orphanage there, according to charges in a three-count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury Tuesday.
Prosecutors have alleged that Matthew Lane Durham of Edmond engaged in sex acts with as many as 10 children aged 4 to 10 while volunteering at the Upendo Children’s Home near Nairobi from April to June 2014. He faces up to life in prison if convicted of engaging in illegal sexual conduct in foreign places, aggravated sexual abuse with children and other charges.
The indictment alleges that Durham traveled from Oklahoma City to Kenya in order to engage in illicit sexual conduct with children at Upendo, which specializes in assisting neglected Kenyan children by providing them with food, housing, clothes and academic and religious instruction.
The indictment also accuses Durham of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with minors under 18 years of age and aggravated sexual abuse of a child under 12.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Bob Troester, said Durham could be asked to enter a plea to the charges as early as Wednesday. Durham’s attorney, Stephen Jones, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
The indictment was returned as a federal judge weighs whether to release Durham to his family’s home in Edmond while the charges against him are litigated.
Earlier on Tuesday, U.S. District judge David Russell ordered Durham temporarily detained while prosecutors appeal an order granting his release on bond. A U.S. magistrate granted bond on Monday.
Russell has not indicated when he might hand down a ruling on the issue and it was not immediately clear if the indictment will affect his decision.
Prosecutors have urged the judge to detain Durham and allege he is a danger to the community and could flee if released on bond.
“The defendant in this matter by his own detailed admission both orally and in writing has brutally raped and molested young girls and boys in an orphanage in Kenya,” the appeal filed in U.S. District Court alleges.
“He has confessed his crimes in writing, on video, and has admitted to a life-long struggle of desires to touch children and ‘child predation,’” it says.
An affidavit filed in federal court said Durham, who has volunteered with the children’ home since June 2012, wrote and signed a statement acknowledging the sexual misconduct. An Upendo official provided the statement to the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, the affidavit says.
But Jones has challenged Durham’s statements about the allegations and claims they were coerced by orphanage officials in Kenya who kept him in isolation and confiscated his passport.
Jones urged Russell to reject the government’s appeal and allow Durham to be released to his family on home incarceration while the case is litigated, which Jones indicated could take months.
“This litigation, with witnesses and alleged victims in Kenya, will likely endure many months,” Jones said in a written objection to the government’s appeal.
“Further incarceration would violate Mr. Durham’s due process right, as he is presumed innocent and will be detained for a prolonged amount of time,” Jones said.
The magistrate ordered Durham’s release after a hearing where his parents testified they do not believe the allegations against their son.
The release order sets bond at $10,000 and names Durham’s father, Oklahoma City Fire Department Maj. Kyle Durham, as his son’s custodian. Kyle Durham testified he has taken administrative leave from his job to care for his son.
It also requires that Matthew Durham surrender his passport, refrain from using cellphones and computers and avoid contact with children and any witnesses and alleged victims in the case.