US Couple to Pay $28K for Mistreating Foster Child

Some Ugandan activists are angered by the outcome
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 23, 2022 7:40 AM CST
Updated Nov 1, 2023 11:49 AM CDT
US Couple Accused of Torturing Ugandan Foster Child
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Motortion)
UPDATE Nov 1, 2023 11:49 AM CDT

The US couple charged in Uganda with child trafficking and torture of their 10-year-old foster son has instead pleaded guilty to child cruelty and "inhumane treatment," reports the BBC. Whereas Mackenzie Leing Mathias Spencer and Nicholas Spencer faced life in prison if convicted of the original counts, they'll now instead pay $28,000, which includes fines and paying the victim $26,000. The Spencers also pleaded guilty to counts of lacking permits to stay in Uganda, working unlawfully, and degrading treatment and were sentenced to two months in prison, which they've already served. The sentence has angered some activists, with one, Proscovia Najjumba, saying that the couple admitted to having "mistreated a child" and then were allowed to "walk away." The BBC notes that Ugandan law regarding international adoptions was tightened this year.

Dec 23, 2022 7:40 AM CST

A Ugandan court has charged an American couple living in the country with child trafficking in a case that might see them serve life in prison if convicted. According to the charge sheet presented by the state prosecution before Buganda Road Court on Monday, the couple allegedly tortured and held a 10-year-old boy in a small, cold room without clothes, the AP reports. The court document alleged that Mackenzie Leing Mathias Spencer and Nicholas Spencer in the district of Kampala "recruited, transported, and maintained" the foster child "for the purpose of exploitation."

The couple earlier had been charged with aggravated torture and was alleged to have kept the boy in the room fitted with cameras to monitor his "stubbornness" and "hyperactive behavior." Police were alerted to the case by a worker at the couple's home. The couple has pleaded not guilty to the earlier charge and they will have the chance to plead to the new charge when the case moves to a higher court. They remain in custody. The prosecution told the court three foster children, including the boy, had been staying with the couple. The other two children are now in the care of the police.

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The case has an element of child trafficking because the couple was allegedly keeping and using the children to solicit money from donors, said Kampala Metropolitan Police Spokesman Patrick Onyango. ABC News cites a press release from Ugandan Police saying the couple arrived in the country as volunteers in 2017, began fostering the children in 2018, and allegedly began abusing the boy in 2020. They allege investigators determined the boy "spent his nights on a wooden platform, without a mattress or beddings, and was served cold meals from the fridge." The law allows foreigners in Uganda to have foster children, Onyango said. (More Uganda stories.)

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