An American fugitive accused of raping his daughter and posting videos of the abuse on the Internet was working in China as a computer adviser and used his own passport when he was arrested at the Hong Kong border, police said Friday.
Kenneth John Freeman, who was captured Tuesday after more than a year on the run, showed no emotion at his first hearing in a Hong Kong courthouse wearing handcuffs, a blue polo shirt and dark green pants.
He had been living in Seattle when he fled the United States last year, months after his 17-year-old daughter told her mother he had assaulted her four years earlier. Video files depicting the alleged abuse also were discovered on a computer Freeman had given to his daughter for her use.
The girl appeared on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted” to talk about the case. Tips to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children after the show aired helped the center identify the girl as the victim in a series of child pornography videos, according to the Marshals Service. Video of the abuse is among the most widely downloaded child pornography videos in recent years, officials said.
Charged in Washington
Freeman, 44, has been charged in Washington state with three counts of rape of a child and jumping bail. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted. He also faces federal charges of producing and distributing child pornography.
He was arrested as he tried to enter Hong Kong on a bus at the busy Lok Ma Chau border crossing with mainland China. He scuffled with four armed Hong Kong police officers, leaving scratches and bruises on himself and the officers, said Detective Senior Inspector Tobi Lothian of the Hong Kong police.
Freeman had been a volunteer reserve sheriff’s deputy in Washington state’s Benton County in the 1980s and also was a security guard at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
He said he wanted to contest the U.S. extradition request, according to his lawyer, Stephen Ma. Freeman did not apply for bail, Ma said, and it was unlikely to be granted because of the seriousness of the allegations against him.
The case was adjourned until July 3 to give the U.S. time to make a formal extradition request, Hong Kong government lawyer Wayne Walsh said.
No attempt to evade detection
Freeman apparently was employed as a computer adviser and was in China for about one year, Lothian said. He said U.S. authorities had asked Hong Kong police for help in the case several months ago, and Freeman’s name was on a watch list, he said.
“He was using his U.S. passport in his own name,” Lothian said. “Obviously, he wasn’t trying to evade detection as he came through.”
Chinese authorities helped track Freeman to the eastern city of Suzhou, near Shanghai, where he is believed to have been working for a U.S.-based company.
Authorities waited for Freeman to go to Hong Kong from China to make the arrest because China has no have an extradition treaty with the United States. Hong Kong is part of China, but is governed separately and has its own legal system.