by Michael P. Mayko
Jesse Osmun, a former Peace Corps volunteer from Milford, CT. charged with abusing several young girls in a South African HIV/AID encampment preschool, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012.
HARTFORD — A former Peace Corps volunteer from Milford admitted Wednesday he “tarnished” his country and the organization by sexually molesting young girls between the ages of 3 and 6 years old while working in a preschool at an HIV/AIDS camp in South Africa.
“The victims in South Africa did nothing, absolutely nothing to deserve the conduct that came upon them,” a contrite Jesse Osmun told Chief U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson moments before he was sentenced to 15 years in prison, followed by 10 years of U.S. Probation Department supervision. “They were completely innocent but they will live with the scars for the rest of their lives.”
Osmun, a 33-year-old Milford resident and the son of the Rev. Andrew Osmun, who until recently served as minister at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in that city’s downtown, pleaded guilty to traveling overseas to engage in sex with a minor. Additionally, at the request of Osmun’s lawyer, Richard T. Meehan, Jr., Thompson recommended the defendant be sent to a federal prison which offers sex offender treatment.
The chief judge also told Osmun that once he is released from prison he will be required to pay a yet-to-be determined portion of future salaries to the victims.
Already, the Rev. Osmun has contributed $10,000 to the restitution fund, which the Peace Corps is also funding.
Thompson’s sentence was less than the minimum 17 1/2 years recommended by federal sentencing guidelines.
But the judge explained he had never had a defendant so contrite, who admitted guilt as soon as he was arrested, and recognized his problem began with child pornography and has taken steps to deal with it.
“Your response … is highly atypical,” Thompson told Osmun as about a dozen members of St. Peter’s Episcopal church sat listening in the audience. The judge said he could not think of any defendant who made “such efforts to purge themselves of the demons.”
The chief judge particularly cited sentences in a letter Osmun sent him.
In that letter, Osmun wrote “One of most awful aspects of being addicted to child pornography is that after a while, 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.”
“Almost no sex offender who stood before me has attested to that,” Thompson said.
Thompson’s sentence “sends a clear message to those who prey on the vulnerable,” said Weziwe Thusi, a member of the South Africa Department of Social Development’s executive council in KwaZulu-Natal. “Jesse Osmun betrayed the trust of the children he was supposed to protect. His evil acts dealt the children a double trauma and therefore people like him deserve to be removed from society.”
At the Umvoti AIDS Centre, where the abuse occurred, Joan Dutton, an official there, accused Osmun of researching the childrens’ files and singling “out those that were most vulnerable who would do anything for a sweet.”
U.S. Attorney David Fein and Assistant U.S. Attorney Krishna Patel previously charged that Osmun bribed little girls to perform oral sex on him by offering candy.
“The very little children that we were nurturing were being abused in the most heinous way,” Dutton wrote the judge. “These children have so little, but Jesse has taken the very fundamentals of their lives away … The children are going to counseling but he has ruined their little lives.”
Ros Visagie, founder of the Palm Tree Care Centre in KwaMakhutha, on the outskirts of Amanzimtoti, which takes care of children affected by HIV/AIDS, believes the sentence was inadequate and ridiculous.
“Those girls are changed; they will never be the girls they were born to be,” said Visagie, who added the children in her center are never left alone with volunteers.
Osmun has been in custody since his Aug. 4, 2011, arrest by Special Agent Rod Khattabi from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division.
Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of Homeland Security’s ICE Boston office, said his “agency will go anywhere in the world to investigate” this kind of incident.
Just how this case impacts the future of the Peace Corps in screening volunteers could not be determined. Calls to the agency resulted in the release of the following statement from Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet: “The Peace Corps has no tolerance for abuse of any kind, and our deepest sympathies are with all the victims involved.” However, the prosecution said that if Osmun’s “prior instances of his misconduct” had been properly reported, “he would not have been accepted as a volunteer … and the abuse to these children would have been avoided.”
About a month after Jesse’s arrest, his brother Seth Osmun was arrested by police in Austin, Texas, for allegedly possessing child pornography. Police there found pictures on his computer of a young girl, between 7 and 9 years old engaging in intercourse and oral sex with an adult male, according to an affidavit submitted by Sgt. Robert Sunley, of the Southern Texas Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Seth Osmun is scheduled to appear Oct. 18 in 390th District Court in Austin.