- The Washington Times - Friday, August 24, 2001

BANGKOK — Eric Franklin Rosser, the first child pornographer to make the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List, was sentenced yesterday to four months in jail, a prelude to his expected extradition to the United States on six counts of producing and distributing child pornography.
Rosser, a confessed pedophile who was arrested here Tuesday after more than a year on the run, pleaded guilty to a charge of entering Thailand on a false passport.
The 49-year-old pianist, who briefly played keyboards with rock-and-roller John Mellencamp, declared the four-month sentence fair, but he has continued portray himself as a victim of a media and FBI witch hunt for pedophiles.
"They have chosen the wrong person," Rosser told reporters during a break in his interrogation by police earlier this week. "I'm really ashamed of what I've done, but I am not a person who has come to Asia as a sex tourist."
The bald, goateed Rosser, who had liposuction and plastic surgery in an attempt to conceal his identity, was arrested in the city's Chatachuk district after a tip from a neighbor who saw a Thai broadcast of the TV program "America's Most Wanted."
Rosser jumped bail in Thailand last year while awaiting trial on molestation and child-pornography charges. He has acknowledged making tapes that show him having sex with an 11-year-old girl.
Just two years ago, Rosser was playing piano at the world-famous Oriental Hotel and running a music school, with a steady stream of young students. Since then, he has traveled on fake passports through Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and other parts of Western Europe, working at times in piano bars, before returning to Thailand two months ago.
A police search of his apartment by members of Thailand's Crime Suppression Bureau and FBI agents who serve as the U.S. Embassy's legal attaches found an ounce of marijuana, two doctored Norwegian and Swedish passports and dozens of diskettes containing sexually explicit images of children.
"Though I have obviously not lost my obsession, I have vowed to use no real photographs ever again," said Rosser, who insists that he has reformed.
He said he only had cartoons and photographs of girls in swimsuits, although he had altered some of the photos "to give the illusion of nudity."
The Rosser arrest has focused renewed attention on Thailand's booming sex industry, which attracts tens of thousands of tourists each year. Girlie bars, massage parlors and brothels operate openly throughout much of Thailand.
And while Rosser insisted that he is "no monster," many people see that as an apt description for those who prey on young children, not only in Thailand, but in neighboring Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines and other parts of Asia.
But the problem is not driven exclusively by foreigners. According to a recent U.N. study of a dozen countries in the region, the child-sex business is fueled "primarily by local demand" in nearly every country.
In a front-page "confessional letter" in the Nation newspaper in March 2000, Rosser stated: "Yes, I am a pedophile." But he portrayed himself as a victim who had "spent most of my adult life fighting rather than giving into my attraction to young girls."
"Only someone who has experienced a lifetime of frustrated longing could understand what drove me to finally act out some of my fantasies with child prostitutes," the letter continued.
Not long after that letter, Rosser fled Thailand for Europe.
Rosser told reporters earlier this week that he returned to the country with a fake British passport two months ago to visit his 2-year-old son, who is staying with relatives. His Thai wife is living in America, with his family.
He said he applied for a teaching job "to show the world that I will not bother those children again."
He pleaded with reporters not to portray him as the "personification of evil."
Rosser will remain in a Thai jail on the passport-fraud charges while extradition is worked out. He faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for each of the six counts against him in U.S. federal court.


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