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Buddhist monk charged with sexual abuse of minor

James Halpin

A Buddhist monk accused of having a months-long sexual relationship with a pre-teenage girl faced a judge Thursday on eight felony charges of sexually abusing a minor.

Sidthisoke Kaybounthome, 21, was arrested Wednesday and booked at the Anchorage jail for the alleged relationship that began in the fall and continued until last week. He is charged with four counts each of first- and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor.

Kaybounthome is a Buddhist monk who studies at the Wat Lao temple in Mountain View. Police Sgt. Cindi Stanton, supervisor of the crimes against children unit, said she didn't know how Kaybounthome knew the girl, but that it appeared others at the temple did not know about the relationship.

"He lied to his other monk friends and used their cars to get to where she was," Stanton said.

Police learned of the alleged affair when the victim's mother called them to report it on April 7, according to a prosecution affidavit filed in court. She said she had confronted Kaybounthome with the accusation and that he initially denied it.

The girl, however, told police she had been in a sexual relationship with Kaybounthome since last September or October. Since then, Kaybounthome would sneak through her home bedroom window at least once a month in what she characterized as a "relationship," according to court documents.

Police got a warrant and listened in on a phone call between Kaybounthome and the girl in which they discussed the relationship in Laotian, court records indicate.

Detectives then confronted Kaybounthome, who initially denied the relationship but later admitted the sexual relationship and that he knew the girl was under 13 years old, according to the papers.

At the hearing Thursday, Kaybounthome, whose first language is Laotian, said he spoke only a little English and could not understand Judge Alex Swiderski, prompting an interpreter to be called.

Swiderski appointed Kaybounthome a public defender and raised his bail from $75,000 to $550,000 at the request of assistant district attorney Brett Watts, who argued Kaybounthome has only "modest ties to Alaska."

"He has a significant flight risk," he said.

Kaybounthome works at the temple, cleaning it and doing other chores, and has been in Alaska for about two years, Stanton said. He is not a U.S. citizen but is living here legally, she said.

In the back row of the gallery, two monks wearing bright orange robes and matching skull caps watched the hearing in silence. Afterward, they said they had no comment.

A man who answered the door at the Wat Lao temple said Kaybounthome had not shown up Thursday and that he knew nothing about the charges.

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By JAMES HALPIN
jhalpin@adn.com