Federal Judge Hands Down Ten-Year Sentence, Lifetime of Supervised Release to Former Georgia Pastor for Sexually Assaulting Ugandan Minor

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

MACON, Ga. – A former pastor from Georgia who was conducting missionary work in Uganda when he sexually assaulted a girl under his care was sentenced by a federal judge this evening to serve above the guideline sentencing range for his crime.

Eric Tuininga, 45, of Milledgeville, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 120 months in prison to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release and $20,000 in restitution to the victim by Chief U.S. District Judge Marc T. Treadwell after he previously pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. In addition, Tuininga will have to register as a sex offender for life upon his release from federal prison. There is no parole in the federal system.

“I want to recognize the true bravery displayed by the Ugandan girl for speaking out when she was assaulted by a trusted person of power from another country, courageously seeking justice across continents,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “Law enforcement – both abroad and here at home – took on a challenging international case. Homeland Security Investigations’ Child Exploitation Unit worked tirelessly to ensure that the truth was uncovered and the defendant was held accountable for his crime.”

According to court documents, a U.S. citizen affiliated with the U.S.-based Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) operating in Mbale, Uganda, contacted U.S. Embassy Kampala American Citizen Services (ACS) in June 2019, to report that Tuininga, who was working as one of the group’s ministers, had sex with the Ugandan female minor who was approximately 14-years-old. U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DSS) agents in Kampala, Uganda, opened an investigation into the allegation. Finding Tuininga had fled to his home in the Middle District of Georgia, the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Child Exploitation Unit, Atlanta, continued the investigation.

Federal agents identified a Ugandan minor who was approximately 14-years-old in March 2019 when Tuininga had sex with her as he was working as a pastor with the OPC. Tuininga admitted that he came to know the victim in his capacity as a religious leader and that the victim would visit the OPC church, including a compound, overseen by Tuininga. Tuininga also admitted that he engaged in illicit sexual conduct with the child.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, HSI-Child Exploitation Unit with special assistance from U.S. Department of State, DSS agents in Kampala, Uganda.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alex Kalim and Katelyn Semales prosecuted the case.