FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A federal judge this morning sentenced George England to 30 years in prison for what he called a "horrendous" crime: buying a 3-year-old child and keeping her for decades as a sex slave.
In January, a jury had found England, 66, guilty on all five federal counts charging he bought Jackie Zudis as a toddler from her mother in Vietnam in the 1970s, then brought her to America, and eventually took her as a minor from California to Florida - and eventually to Palm Beach County - so he could continue his almost daily sexual attacks.
"George, after today you will no longer control me," Zudis, now 43 and living in Palm Beach County, said this morning in court, reading from a statement as England sat just inches to her left.
"I can look you in the face," she said, "and call you what you really are: a coward of a man. You get absolutely no credit for the strong, intelligent woman you see today."
Zudis had sat today next to the child she gave up for adoption when she was 15 - the one whose DNA helped seal England's conviction - and whom she had not seen for 29 years.
She'd learned only on Tuesday that her biological son was coming from California, and the two had reunited 15 minutes before the hearing.
"He shook my hand," Zudis recalled later, outside court. "I asked him for a hug, and then broke down in tears."
In court, the man - who asked the court that he be identified only as David - called July 9, 2010, the day he learned the truth, "a day I will never forget. I became a victim of a crime perpetrated by George England."
Since then, David said, he's been in therapy and takes three different anti-depressants.
Zudis has said she's allowed herself to be identified, and has told her story in graphic and excruciating detail, in order to bring England's crimes to light and out of guilt over young friends of hers whom England was convicted of molesting in southern California.
In 1977, while awaiting sentencing in that case, England stole the identity of Stephen Seagoe, a California infant who had died, and brought Zudis with him to South Florida.
He settled in Fort Lauderdale, then moved to Lake Worth, Palm Beach and eventually West Palm Beach, finding work at a Riviera Beach electronics firm as Seagoe.
In Florida, Zudis testified in January, England impregnated her eight to nine times, five of those before she was 16. She said she put David, her first-born, up for adoption when she was 13 and aborted the rest.
In 1986, Zudis, then 18, threatened suicide if England molested her again. She later married, had a son, divorced and married a second time, to a man to whom she divulged everything. Soon after, in 2005, she went to West Palm Beach-based FBI agent John MacVeigh, who sat with prosecutors today in court.
Agents later nabbed England in South Florida as he tried to obtain a passport as Seagoe. He spent 14 months in federal prison, then served the California term he had dodged.
In March 2010, the day he was set to walk out of prison, prosecutors in South Florida filed the new federal charges related to transporting Zudis to Florida.
In court this morning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Steinberg had told the judge, "this case provides a front row seat to a level of human depravity that simply exceeds the imagination of most people."
Federal Assistant Public Defender R. D'Arsey Houlihan told U.S. District Judge Jose A. Gonzalez Jr., that England - who has never admitted guilt - was no threat to molest anyone and already had been in prison for six years and. He also said that once released, England faced deportation to his native Canada, which he'd left as a child and where he'd be a stranger.
Citing England's age and health - he's in a wheelchair following a 2005 accident while being transported from court - Houlihan said even another six year term amounted to a life sentence.
"We've got an elderly gentleman who's sick, who can't walk, who's been incarcerated for years, who has no money, who has no friends, has no prospects," the public defender said.
Gonzalez wasn't moved. After asking England if he had anything to say - "Not at this time, your honor," England replied - Gonzalez sentenced him to the maximum, citing "the horrendous nature of the offense."
Afterward, Zudis called today "the ending of a chapter to a sad life. I'm ready to start a new chapter to my new life."
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