U.S. man held in Hong Kong in abuse case

/ Source: The Associated Press

A man accused of raping his own daughter and posting video of the attack on the Internet was being held in Hong Kong on Wednesday in what authorities called the arrest of one of the world’s most notorious child molesters.

Kenneth John Freeman, a 44-year-old former reserve sheriff’s deputy from Washington state, was apprehended by Chinese police Tuesday using arrest information from U.S. authorities. It’s not clear what Freeman was doing in Hong Kong, but “obviously, he was trying to escape,” said U.S. Marshals spokeswoman Nikki Credic.

The Web video of the attack became one of the most widely downloaded child pornography videos in recent years, officials said. Freeman’s daughter is now a teenager who advocates against child sexual abuse, and has appeared on TV to tell her story.

Freeman was one of the most wanted fugitives for both the Marshals and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "The danger this individual poses to the general public and young children is alarming," Marshals Service Director John F. Clark said on Dec. 27, when Freeman was added to the most-wanted list.

The Web video was featured on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted,” which in turn triggered calls to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that helped identify the girl.

“Freeman will be returned for trial here, where penalties for child exploitation are among the toughest in the world,” said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie Myers, who oversees ICE.

Clark called it a “complex, international case.”

Captured in China
Authorities said Freeman, facing local and federal charges, fled the U.S. last year. Investigators tracked him down in Suzhou, a city in China, where he is believed to have been working at the local office of a U.S.-based company.

The United States does not have an extradition agreement with the Chinese government to return fugitives to their native nations.

However, such a treaty does exist between the U.S. and Hong Kong. In the last several weeks, investigators discovered Freeman was planning to travel to Hong Kong, where he was arrested on his arrival at the airport, officials said.

Trying to flee, he injured four Chinese police officers while resisting arrest, officials said.

Credic said it was not clear when Freeman would be returned to the U.S.

His arrest follows more than a year of investigation by the Marshals, ICE, the State Department and the Benton County Sheriff’s office in Washington state.

Chris Peale, the victim's stepfather, said she deserves the most credit.

"We're rejoicing today. An awful man, an evil man has been captured," Peale said during a news conference, glancing at his stepdaughter, who smiled but did not speak. "Without her strength and conviction, this would never have happened. She stood up in front of America and said what had happened to her, and that's an admirable thing."