Prosecutors: Send American to prison for 4 years over Rotterdam Amber Alert case
Prosecutors in Rotterdam demanded a four-year prison sentence against American man James B., suspected of abducting a 12-year-old girl last June, and of committing statutory rape and sexual assaulting her. The girl's disappearance on 27 June 2019 triggered an Amber Alert the following morning, and the man and girl were found at a Rotterdam Hilton about 12 hours later.
B., originally from Louisiana and now 50 years of age, was released from pre-trial custody last month due to a terminal illness. He was allowed to travel back to the United States, and an arrangement was made for him to participate in the trial from Seattle by video conferencing software. However he did not appear for the hearing on Thursday morning, as he was suffering from symptoms of leukemia, his attorney said, according to a Telegraaf court reporter.
Because of this, a four-year term would be inhumane and is essentially a life sentence, argued B.'s attorney, Tjalling van der Goot. "This does not take into account the personal circumstances of the suspect," Van der Goot said, according to the newspaper.
The Public Prosecution Service (OM) laid out their case in a closing argument, and demanded prison time saying the suspect's illness has no relevance considering the egregiousness of the crime. "The defendant has grossly abused the trust of a vulnerable 12-year-old girl and the dominance that he had over her as an adult. In an elaborate way, he has built a relationship of trust with her, such that she fell in love with him and thought they were in a relationship. He then traveled to the Netherlands for no other purpose than to have sex with her, knowing full well that she would fulfill this wish," the prosecutor said in court according to a statement published by the OM.
In its case, the prosecutor said that the girl went missing after leaving school to visit an orthodontist. As was previously reported, she knew the suspect through an online children's game called Star Stable, with B. later creating a Facebook account the girl could use to communicate with him. She had recently lost her father and found comfort in communicating with B., the Telegraaf reported from court testimony. A police investigation of the chat messages found sexually explicit contact, and naked photos the girl sent to B.
Van der Goot argued instead that in online communication the girl pursued B., with the defendant always repeating that he could only love her in the same way a father loves a daughter. B. refused the girl's overtures for a relationship, saying he would do no such thing with a minor.
B. traveled to the Netherlands, where he has a 19-year-old daughter from another relationship, saying that he wanted to protect the young girl from an abusive situation. He denied wrongdoing in the hotel room, saying nothing happened, but prosecutors contend the two engaged each other sexually multiple times in their time at the Hilton. When he was captured, B. was wearing a shirt and loose underwear with his genitals visible, the newspaper said. Both the girl and B. denied they had sex, though DNA evidence suggested otherwise. The prosecutor said the girl's consent to participate was irrelevant as her age requires that she be fully protected by the law.
To this, B.'s attorney said that the girl withdrew from her mother and felt alienated at school. She willingly went with B., he argued, and even though B. left the hotel room at least two different times she never made an attempt to flee. As such, the defense attorney asked that B. be acquitted of abducting the girl. B. also said the girl's story has been contradictory, and that the forensic report should be viewed more critically.
The prosecution demanded the guilty verdict and prison sentence saying that B.'s continued denials gave the prosecuting attorney little reason to consider B.'s health in making a sentencing recommendation. A ruling is expected on July 2.