US judge detains Okla. teen on child abuse charges
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma teen facing a three-count indictment that accuses him of sexually abusing children at an orphanage in Kenya was ordered by a federal judge Wednesday to be detained until his trial.
The order by U.S. District Judge David Russell reversed a magistrate's order that authorized the conditional release of Matthew Lane Durham, 19, to his family's home in Edmond. In handing down the order, Russell said the charges against Durham "are extremely serious" and that he could not create conditions for his release on bond that would assure the safety of others.
"From the evidence submitted it appears that defendant potentially poses a danger to himself and to others in the community, especially minors, who are ill-equipped to protect themselves," Russell's 11-page order says.
Russell's order comes after Durham was indicted by a federal grand jury that accused him of traveling from Oklahoma City to Kenya to sexually abuse children at the Upendo Children's Home outside Nairobi, which specializes in assisting neglected Kenyan children by providing them with food, housing, clothes and academic and religious instruction.
Durham was also indicted for illicit sexual conduct in foreign places and aggravated sexual abuse. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors allege that Durham engaged in sex acts with as many as 10 children aged 4 to 10 while volunteering at the orphanage. An affidavit filed in federal court said Durham, who has volunteered with the children's 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 Durham's defense attorney, Stephen Jones, has challenged the credibility of Durham's statements and claims they were coerced by orphanage officials in Kenya who kept him in isolation and confiscated his passport. Jones did not return a telephone call seeking comment about his client's detention.
Russell's order states prosecutors have presented evidence that Durham has struggled with pornography and the desire to touch children for years and the judge expressed concern about the teen's mental health.
Durham, who is scheduled to enter a plea to the charges on Friday, has made statements about being powerless over a demon he has named Luke, Russell's order states. And during a conversation with his father, he did not deny engaging in the alleged activities "but denied remembering having done so," Russell said.
"Furthermore, since his return from Kenya, while living at his parents' home, defendant made threats against the founder of Upendo," the order states. Prosecutors say Durham sent a text message in which he threatened to burn down the house of Upendo's founder.
In ordering Durham's detention, Russell instructed authorities to confine him in a corrections facility separate from people serving sentences or being held in custody pending appeal. Durham was arrested last month and has been held in the Logan County Jail.