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Allegations of affair roil international child sex case

November 20, 2010 |  1:08 pm

A costly and emotionally charged child sex case in which prosecutors traveled to Cambodia and paid to fly frightened young victims to the United States is under fire by defense attorneys amid allegations that court interpreters were biased in favor of the prosecution.

One of the interpreters assigned to the case of Michael Joseph Pepe admitted being involved in a sexual relationship with the lead investigator around the time the case went to trial in May 2008, according to documents filed in federal court in Los Angeles.

Pepe, a retired U.S. Marine captain who was working as a teacher in Cambodia, was convicted of having sex with seven girls ages 9 to 12. The girls, speaking through Vietnamese and Khmer interpreters, testified that Pepe drugged, bound, beat and raped them in his compound in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital.

After Pepe's conviction, prosecutors discovered and disclosed the relationship between interpreter Ann Luong Spiratos and Gary J. Phillips, a special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Following the disclosure, Pepe's defense attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer for a new trial.

Read the full story here.

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-- Scott Glover

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