Double lives: Newton, right, with Truong and their son outside their Cairns home.
Standing before an American court convicted of the most heinous of child sex crimes, the double lives of Australian citizen Mark J. Newton and his long-term boyfriend Peter Truong were laid bare.
‘‘Being a father was an honour and a privilege that amounted to the best six years of my life,’’ the American-born Newton, 42, told the court.
Moments later Newton was sentenced to 40 years in prison for sexually abusing the boy he and Truong, 36 from Queensland, had ‘‘adopted’’ after paying a Russian woman $8000 to be their surrogate in 2005.
Police believe the pair had adopted the boy ‘‘for the sole purpose of exploitation’’. The abuse began just days after his birth and over six years the couple travelled the world, offering him up for sex with at least eight men, recording the abuse and uploading the footage to an international syndicate known as the Boy Lovers Network.
‘‘Personally .. I think this is probably the worst [paedophile] rings … if not the worst ring I’ve ever heard of,’’ investigator Brian Bone of the US Postal Inspection Service told reporters outside the US federal court room in Indiana.
US District Judge Sarah Evans Barker said the pair deserved a harsher punishment but were tried at district court level to avoid subjecting a jury to the repulsive images that had been produced.
‘‘What can be said? What can be done to erase some of the horror of this?’’ Judge Barker said in handing down her sentence.
Truong has also pleaded guilty and will be sentenced at a later date.
Newton and Truong gave an interview to a local ABC reporter in Far North Queensland in 2010 on their battle to have a child as a gay couple. Their search started in 2002 in the US, where they both were working, and when they did not have any success Truong travelled to Russia and found a woman who they ‘‘clicked with personality-wise’’. She was paid $8000 and, as per their agreement, granted the couple sole custody of the boy, handing him over five days after his birth in 2005.
The family planned to live in Cairns but that was delayed because Australian authorities initially refused to grant the child a visa. That took 2 years and upon their eventual arrival in Australia they said Customs quizzed them for hours. Police were also sent to the family’s house in Cairns to check up on the pair.
In the radio interview, 20 months before their arrest, Newton was asked if he felt the extra attention was because authorities suspected there was ‘‘something dodgy … something paedophlic going on here?’’
‘‘Absolutely, absolutely, I’m sure that was completely the concern,’’ Newton replied.
Evidence before the court revealed the abuse began before the couple returned to Australia. One video is said to show Newton performing a sex act on the boy when he was less than two weeks old.
Judge Barker said the pair brainwashed the child to believe the sexual abuse was normal. Newton was also said to have trained the boy to deny any inappropriate behaviour if he was ever questioned by authorities.
Newton and Truong came to the attention of police in August 2011 after their connections to three men arrested over the possession of child exploitation material came to light. The couple had visited the three men in the US, New Zealand and Germany with their son.
While the couple were visiting family in the US, Queensland police searched their Cairns home and found enough evidence to alert their US counterparts who raided their Los Angeles base and took the boy into custody.
Newton and Truong claimed they were being targeted because they were homosexual. However after his arrest in February 2011, Truong gave investigators the password to the computer hard drives police had seized. It detailed the years of abuse.
The boy remains in the care of extended family in the US.