Alleged child sex slave describes ordeal to jurors in Fort Lauderdale
By Elliot Kleinberg
The little girl is standing beside an elephant statue somewhere in Thailand. She wears a pretty white dress with dark stripes and has a little girl's pretty, shoulder-length hair.
The faded, decades-old photograph, projected onto a screen in a federal courtroom, gives no hint that the girl, no older than 5, already may have been a sex slave.
For five hours on Tuesday, Jackie Zudis, now 43, described how she says George Joseph England robbed her of her childhood.
Zudis says England bought her when she was a 3-year-old from her mother in war-torn Vietnam, renamed her Lynn Marie "Jackie" England, and for the next two decades shuttled her to Thailand, India, Southern California, and, eventually, Palm Beach County.
All that time, she said, he forced himself on her three to five times a week, made her watch him rape other girls and made her fondle a girlfriend while he watched through a peephole.
England has pleaded not guilty. He faces five federal counts related to bringing Zudis as a minor across state lines for purposes of molesting her. He could go to prison for up to 30 years.
Zudis testified that England impregnated her eight to nine times, forcing her to adopt out her firstborn at 13 and abort the rest.
Some of the 14 jurors sneaked glances at the bespectacled England, who did not look up but scribbled on a legal pad.
His hair is white now, and close cut, and he bears a white beard. England, 66, is in a wheelchair, the result of a 2005 car accident while being moved between prisons.
England's public defenders on Tuesday challenged DNA evidence that gave a more than 99 percent chance a California man is the son of England and the then-preteen and who gave him up 29 years ago and has not seen him since.
It was after his 1977 California conviction that England found in a newspaper the name of a child who'd died at 11 months, then adopted the baby's identity and eventually found work around 1982 at the Solitron electronics firm in Riviera Beach as Stephen Arthur Seagoe.
All during her decades-long ordeal, Zudis testified Tuesday, England told her that "if I'd stayed in Vietnam, I'd be a prostitute now. Or dead. That he saved my life." And that, if he was arrested, she'd go to a foster home, where she'd be raped, sold into slavery or murdered.
Around 1982, the two moved to Lake Worth, then later to Palm Beach and then to Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach.
Her last abortion was in January 1986, she said. Six weeks later, Jackie, at age 18, "threatened suicide if he ever touched me again."
She met a man two doors down on Labor Day 1988 and married him New Year's Eve. Their seven-year marriage produced a son, now 19.
"I thought it was too late to do anything," said Zudis, who is allowing her name to be used to shine light on the crimes England committed. But after she met her future second husband, she told him everything. At first he said, let it go. But she thought about her three childhood friends and the prison term England never served.
One day in 2005, her husband met her at the law firm where she worked on the sixth floor of a Flagler Drive office building. The two walked down to the fifth floor and into the offices of the FBI.
"I have a strong anger for him," Zudis said Tuesday of England. "For harming me. For harming my friends. For not letting me be a little girl."
The trial is expected to continue through Thursday or Friday.