South African returns to US over molestation charges

2018-09-06 08:20
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A South African man flew to Oregon to face multiple sex-abuse charges that were lodged against him a quarter-century ago, the FBI said on Wednesday.

The FBI, which ran a social-media campaign in SA to bring attention to the case, said it arranged for Clackamas County sheriff's deputies to meet the plane carrying Barrett Preston Busschau. The 43-year-old had agreed to return to the US to face the charges.

Busschau was 18 when he was charged in 1993 with sexually molesting five girls between the ages of 10 and 15. He fled before trial.

Prosecutor Lewis Burkhart said there has been no plea agreement with Busschau. In a brief telephone interview, Burkhart acknowledged there could be challenges in prosecuting a case after 25 years.

"The passage of time creates issues with people's memory, things like that," said Burkhart, deputy district attorney for Clackamas County, near Portland. Busschau also faces charges in nearby Washington County.

'Case agent's persistence'

The FBI months ago began targeting South African media using Facebook to display wanted posters that showed an age-adjusted image of the suspect and offering a reward of up to $10 000.

"For a quarter of a century, Barrett Busschau managed to hide half-a-world away," Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon, said in a statement.

"Thanks to an FBI case agent's persistence, the prosecutors and partnerships stretching from Oregon to South Africa, Mr Busschau will finally have to face these serious allegations and his accusers in court."

Busschau's US attorney, Jason Short, was in a meeting and not immediately available for comment, an assistant said.

Short has asked prosecutors to present names of witnesses, their recorded statements, statements the defendant made to authorities and objects the state intends to present as evidence, according to a court document.

Busschau is a South African citizen who came to the US as a child and obtained legal permanent resident status in 1989, the FBI said.

He was released on his own recognisance after being charged. When he failed to appear, a warrant was issued for his arrest without opportunity for bail on October 4, 1993.

Burkhart intends to seek justice for the victims after all these years.

"Just because someone runs doesn't mean they get away with it," Burkhart said.

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