A onetime Southern California resident was found guilty Monday of traveling repeatedly to Cambodia to sexually assault impoverished children, four of whom testified to grueling sexual attacks that had jurors blinking back tears.
Delays kept the case against Ronald “John” Gerard Boyajian at a stalemate for seven years prior to the start of the month-long trial.
“This case is about a man who wanted to sexually assault children — and he found a place where he could do that,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Baehr-Jones said.
Boyajian traveled to Cambodia about three dozen times between 2002 and 2009, where he engaged in sexual activity with Vietnamese girls between the ages of 8 and 11 in a village outside Phnom Penh frequented by child molesters and known as “Kilo 11.”
One of the girls — now an adult working in Cambodia to help fellow victims of sexual predators — told jurors that Boyajian paid her grandmother to leave her alone with him in a wooden shack. She described being raped, beaten and bitten on the legs and calves by the defendant during multiple attacks.
The federal jury deliberated for about five hours before returning guilty verdicts on all three counts contained in a federal indictment initially handed down in September 2009.
Boyajian, who represented himself during the trial, seemed to nod his head as the verdicts were read, but otherwise showed no reaction.
“The United States is the world leader in civil rights, and if you are an American and you hurt a child — no matter where it takes place in the world -— you will be prosecuted,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Herzog said outside court. “All children must be protected from sexual predators — and today’s verdicts confirm that.”
He faces up to 30 years behind bars, with sentencing tentatively set for June 13 by U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder.
Boyajian, now 55, was among the first defendants charged under an international law enforcement initiative specifically targeting Americans traveling to Cambodia for the purpose of sexually abusing children.
Operation Twisted Traveler was an effort by the Justice Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to crack down on sex tourism.
Boyajian has been in custody in Los Angeles since his removal from Cambodia seven years ago. In the years since he was charged, Boyajian lodged a raft of motions and continuances, ensuring the case remained deadlocked.