Three years into a 23-year federal prison sentence, a former Haitian missionary who molested roughly two dozen children asked a judge this month for compassionate release.
In February 2018, James Arbaugh, 43, of Stuarts Draft, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to traveling in foreign commerce from the United States and engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a person under the age of 18.
In June 2018, Judge Elizabeth Dillon sentenced Arbaugh to 23 years in prison. He faced up to 30 years.
On Nov. 10, Arbaugh filed his petition for a reduced sentence to time served.
“Arbaugh seeks compassionate release because of the extraordinary and compelling reasons shown through his particularized susceptibility to COVID-19 (asthma and reactive airway disease) and a particularized risk of contracting the disease at his prison facility,” the petition stated.
As of Friday, Arbaugh has not been appointed an attorney.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment Friday.
Abraugh is being held at the Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution in New Jersey, with a projected release date of June 20, 2037.
Federal authorities launched an investigation on Sept. 11, 2017 after a counselor at the Family Life Resource Center in Harrisonburg notified Rockingham County Social Services that Arbaugh disclosed sexual abuse against children. The agency called the Harrisonburg Police Department, which contacted federal agents.
Arbaugh told police he produced movies to teach people in Haiti about Jesus. He said he traveled to the Caribbean island nation between 2009 and 2017 as part of his family’s well-drilling business.
His family often traveled there to volunteer time and money to dig wells in rural areas.
During the investigation, Arbaugh admitted he molested children while in Haiti.
Prosecutors say a witness corroborated Arbaugh’s confession.
A special agent with U.S. Homeland Security arrested Arbaugh on Nov. 15, 2017.
At sentencing, Dillon stated: “This was a heinous crime. It was a crime that involved scheming and planning. Mr. Arbaugh groomed his victims.”