MACON, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty in February to sexually assaulting a girl while a missionary in Uganda.
U.S. District Judge Marc. T. Treadwell sentenced Eric Tuininga, 45, of Milledgeville last week. He was ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution and spend a lifetime on supervised release as a registered sex offender after getting out of prison.
Prosecutors have said that an American citizen had contacted the U.S. embassy in Kampala, Uganda in June 2019 to tell officials that Tuininga was having sex with Ugandan girls as young as 14 who were under the care of the U.S.-based Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Mbale, Uganda.
Tuininga was one of the church’s ministers. Authorities said they found Tuininga had already returned to the United States, but federal agents identified the minor and kept investigating. Tuininga admitted to the conduct, with prosecutors saying he told them that the victim would often visit the church property in Mbale.
The recommended sentence for Tuininga was seven to nine years, The Telegraph of Macon reported. But Treadwell sentenced him to a decade in federal prison after hearing testimony from the victim’s caretaker and some of Tuininga’s family members. Tuininga’s defense attorney had objected to some of the evidence at sentencing and requested a sentence of five years.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary said in a statement. “Law enforcement — both abroad and here at home — took on a challenging international case.”
Mark Bube, general secretary of the denomination’s committee of foreign missions, has said Tuininga’s misconduct was reported by other Orthodox Presbyterian missionaries in Uganda and that he was removed from missionary work in 2019. Bube said Tuininga was later removed entirely from ministry and excommunicated from the church based in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.
Tuininga joined the church from a separate but affiliated denomination in Oregon. A website chronicling Tuininga’s work in Uganda said he began working there in 2012 after previously working as a minister at Immanuel’s Reformed Church in Salem, Oregon.