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Ex-Peace Corps worker gets 15 years for abusing girls in Africa

By Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times –

NEW YORK—A former Peace Corps volunteer who admitted using his posting in South Africa to sexually abuse young girls at a center for children orphaned by AIDS was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years in prison in his home state of Connecticut.

Jesse Osmun, 33, had pleaded guilty to engaging in illicit sexual conduct with girls under the age of 6 at the AIDS treatment center in Greytown, in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, in May 2011. Prosecutors began building their case after employees at the center spotted Osmun zipping up his pants while in a room with three girls ages 3 to 6.

Osmun left the Peace Corps and returned to the United States as South African and U.S. law enforcement officials began an investigation. Eventually, one of the girls said that Osmun had given them candy in exchange for oral sex, and Osmun was arrested in July 2011.

In a letter to the judge earlier this month, Osmun admitted to an addiction to child pornography that could only be satisfied by “hands on” acts.

“Once I got hooked (on child pornography) things went downhill rapidly,” Osmun told Chief U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson in the letter. “One of the most awful aspects of being addicted to child pornography is that after awhile, it begins to normalize acts, which can never be normalized or accepted as harmless and healthy. When I could not get my fix from pornography, I moved on to hands on offending, as many sex offenders can probably attest.”

In court Wednesday, Osmun apologized. “I abused my power and they suffered in the worst possible way,” he said.

In announcing Osmun’s guilty plea last June, David B. Fein, the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut, called his crime “reprehensible” and “an extraordinary abuse of trust and an unconscionable violation of the Peace Corps mission.”

“He was supposed to be helping young children in need, many of whom were orphans, but instead, he preyed upon them,” Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said at the time.

The Peace Corps said it had no knowledge of Osmun’s pornography addiction or tendencies when he was sworn in as a volunteer with the organization in 2009.

According to an online profile Osmun posted on the networking site, his Peace Corps posting took him to the Umvoti AIDS Center in South Africa from January 2010 until June 2011. He described his work there as writing and editing grants and “developing outreach programs for orphans and vulnerable children.”

Osmun also said on his profile that he had been a substitute teacher in 2009, and that for 10 months in 2005 and 2006 he worked with AIDS orphans and other children while doing missionary work in Kenya.

After leaving the Peace Corps, he posted an additional profile on Google describing himself as “your average … guy living in Milford, CT.”

Osmun’s lawyer, Richard T. Meehan Jr., had asked for a sentence of 14 years; prosecutors wanted 22 years.

The Hartford Courant reported that Osmun’s father, the Rev. Andrew Osmun of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Milford, had contributed $10,000 to start a fund for his son’s victims and that the family would make regular payments into it.

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