Kenneth John Freeman, a 44-year-old former sheriff’s deputy from Washington state, was apprehended by Chinese police Tuesday night using arrest information from U.S. authorities. It’s not clear what Freeman was doing in Hong Kong, but “obviously, he was trying to escape,” said U.S. Marshals Service spokeswoman Nikki Credic.
The Web video of the attack became one of the most widely downloaded child pornography videos in recent years, officials said. Freeman’s daughter is now a teenager who advocates against child sexual abuse, and has appeared on TV to tell her story.
Freeman was one of the fugitives most wanted by both the Marshals and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The Web video was featured on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted,” which in turn triggered calls to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that helped identify the girl.
“Freeman will be returned for trial here, where penalties for child exploitation are among the toughest in the world,” said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie Myers, who oversees ICE.
U.S. Marshals director John F. Clark called it a “complex, international case.”
Authorities said Freeman, facing local and federal charges, fled the U.S. last year. Investigators tracked him down in Suzhou, a city in China, where he is believed to have been working at the local office of a U.S.-based company. The U.S. does not have an extradition agreement with the Chinese government to return fugitives to their native nations.
However, such a treaty does exist between the U.S. and Hong Kong. In the last several weeks, investigators discovered Freeman was planning to travel to Hong Kong, where he was arrested on his arrival at the airport, officials said. Trying to flee, he injured four Chinese police officers while resisting arrest, officials said.
Credic said it was not clear when Freeman would be returned to the U.S.
His arrest follows more than a year of investigation by the Marshals, ICE, the State Department and the Benton County Sheriff’s office in Washington state.
On the Net:
U.S. Marshals Service: http://www.usmarshals.gov/news/chron/2007/050207.htm
Immigration and Customs Enforcement: http://www.ice.gov/
America’s Most Wanted: http://www.amw.com/captures/brief.cfm?id=41919
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: http://www.missingkids.com/