SPOKANE, Wash. – An American held in Hong Kong on allegations that he raped his underage daughter and posted video footage of it on the Internet has been returned to the United States, federal authorities said Thursday.
Kenneth John Freeman, 45, once one of the United States' most wanted fugitives, was to be arraigned in Spokane on federal charges Friday. He was indicted here in January on one count of producing child pornography and one count of transporting child pornography.
Freeman, a computer adviser, bodybuilder and former reserve sheriff's deputy in Washington's Benton County, also is wanted on federal child pornography charges in Oregon. He is also accused of child rape and bail-jumping in Benton County, state charges related to the suspected attack on his daughter.
In March 2006, he fled the country for Hong Kong, living for a year in the interior of China before his arrest in May as he re-entered Hong Kong. He agreed to be extradited.
Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service flew to Hong Kong on Monday and returned with Freeman on Thursday afternoon, U.S. Marshal Mike Kline said.
Freeman is being held at the Spokane County jail, where a sergeant said he had refused to talk to reporters.
Federal prosecutors, law enforcement officials and Benton County deputy prosecutor Adrienne Farabee declined to discuss specifics of the case. It involved diplomacy and cooperation from China, which has no extradition treaty with the U.S.
Freeman was living in Suzhou, China, and had a valid visa, so authorities in that country were unable to act, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice said. But Chinese authorities monitored his movements and notified U.S. authorities of his intended travel to Hong Kong, which does have an extradition treaty with the U.S., Rice said.
ICE agent Mike McCool said it would be inappropriate to discuss details of China's involvement in the extradition.
"I would just highly congratulate their efforts," he said.
In a statement released to news media last week, Freeman did not deny allegations by his now 17-year-old daughter that he videotaped her abuse four years ago and distributed the sexual assault via Internet pornographers.
Freeman had been living in Seattle when he fled the United States last year, months after his daughter told her mother he had assaulted her. He was on the most-wanted lists of the Marshals Service and ICE.
After his daughter discussed the case on the TV show "America's Most Wanted," tips helped identify her as the victim in a series of child pornography videos, according to the Marshals Service. Video of the abuse has been widely downloaded, officials said.
Video files depicting the abuse also were discovered on a computer Freeman had given to his daughter.
A U.S. attorney's spokeswoman in Portland did not immediately return a call seeking details on the Oregon charges.
Farabee, the Benton County prosecutor, said the girl's family is pleased Freeman has been returned to face charges.
In his statement, Freeman did not directly address the sexual abuse allegations against him but said "he never physically hurt or threatened" his daughter. He said he wrote a book during his detention in Hong Kong to tell his side of the story, but Kline and Rice said they were unaware whether he had been allowed to bring a copy with him back to the States.
Freeman's wife, Maleka May, was arrested by U.S. marshals May 3 when she returned to San Francisco after Freeman was arrested in Hong Kong, Rice said. She recently pleaded guilty to two charges of making false statements to federal law enforcement officers about her husband's whereabouts.
She is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 29 in federal court in San Francisco.