Ratcheting up the global crackdown on an 84-year-old defrocked priest, U.S. prosecutors leveled seven counts of illicit sexual contact with minors against a man who operated a “shelter home” for young girls in East Timor.
Richard Jude Daschbach, a former priest who was ordained by the Society of the Divine Word in 1966, already has been facing prosecution in East Timor for child exploitation and in the Northern District of California for wire fraud in connection with the fundraising for his Topu Honis Shelter Home, billed as a residential facility for disadvantaged male and female children and adults.
“This case shows that we will use the full extent of the law to prosecute U.S. citizens who allegedly prey on children, no matter how far we must go to bring them to justice,” Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips, who serves the District of Columbia, wrote in a statement. “Together with our law enforcement partners, we must ensure that people placed in positions of trust do not betray their responsibilities to help the children who depend upon them.”
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. called the case a “significant step toward accountability for harms suffered by multiple vulnerable children” whom Daschbach allegedly victimized.
The grand jury’s five-page indictment, from the District of Columbia, charges Daschbach for alleged conduct between 2013 and 2019.
If convicted, the octogenarian could face up to 30 years imprisonment on each count.
According to an Associated Press video investigation, which you can watch above, Daschbach is considered a hero to many in East Timor for saving lives during that country’s struggle for independence, but the missionary is also accused of sexually abusing girls in his care. Prosecutors say he founded his Topu Honis shelter in 1993 and served as its director through at least 2018.
The California prosecution focuses on the money trail funding Daschbach’s shelter. In accepting money from a U.S. non-profit, Daschbach allegedly promised not to sexually exploit minors. But prosecutors claim he abused four girls, including “instances of oral sex and touching of nude genitals,” according to his 2019 indictment there.
“In addition to sexually abusing victims 1, 2, 3, and 4, Daschbach consistently required at least one minor female to sleep with him in his bed at Topu Honis,” that indictment states.
The Catholic church defrocked Daschbach a year earlier in 2018, after the ex-priest admitted his sexual abuse to officials and donors, according to the AP.
This past April, the AP interviewed three of Daschbach’s alleged victims, who told the newswire that the ex-priest would have a little girl sit on his lap every night on a chair in the middle of the room.
“The way that you determine who sits on his lap is by the list that he’d have on his door,” one accuser told the newswire. “And that meant that you were the little girl that was going to go with him.”
According to the AP, Daschbach would then strip to his white boxer shorts and a T-shirt, undress the girls, and guide their hands to touch him.
“Then, they said, there would often be oral sex,” the AP reported. “One accuser also said she was raped.”
His charges in East Timor carry a possible 20-year sentence.
The California wire fraud allegations allege a broken promise to the shelter’s funder, the U.S.-based non-profit One World Children’s Fund (OWCF).
“In its policy, Topu Honis pledged to never engage in any form of sexual activity with children, and to never sleep close to unsupervised children, among other commitments to the welfare of children,” the indictment stated. “Daschbach never disclosed to OWCF that he routinely slept with minor females at the shelter, nor that he engaged in any form of sexual conduct with them at any time prior to and during his partnership with OWCF.”
Daschbach’s attorney information is not listed on the U.S. federal court docket.
Read the District of D.C. indictment below:
[Image via YouTube screengrab of an Associated Press video investigation from earlier this year.]
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