Alleged child sex ring kingpin pleads not guilty to more than 700 charges

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Load shedding disrupted one of the biggest cases of child pornography to come before the High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday – just as the trial began.

The case was postponed to Wednesday for the first state witness, Colonel Kirsten Clark, a clinical psychologist who conducted psychological reports on the minors regarding their ability to testify in court and their ability to consent to sex.

‘Not guilty’

Gerhard Ackerman, 50, spent Tuesday pleading not guilty separately to each of 740 counts of running a child sex ring with the late acting judge and Commission of Inquiry into State Capture evidence leader Paul Kennedy.

The charges range from creating child pornography, attempted murder, several counts of rape, human trafficking, several counts of sexual assault, sexual exploitation of children, benefitting from the sexual exploitation of children to sexual grooming of children.

The alleged crimes were committed between September 2020 and July 2021.

Appearing in the high court, where the trial commenced, Ackerman stood in the dock clad in a black jacket, blue jeans and a face mask.

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He quietly answered Judge Ismail Mahomed when asked to enter his plea to every charge read out by state prosecutor advocate Valencia Dube.

Detailing Ackerman’s involvement in the case, Dube accused Ackerman of having exploited young boys and luring them to perform sexual acts on adult men including Kennedy.

Minors targetted on Facebook

The state believes the boys were encouraged to perform massages on the men which led to their rape and other sexual acts.

Not only was Kennedy a client of Ackerman’s, but the state has argued that he helped him recruit the teenagers for sexual exploitation.

Kennedy committed suicide some months after he was arrested and charged alongside Ackerman. The pair are also accused of trafficking minor teenagers and sexually grooming them before selling their services to other adult clients for money.

In one of the attempted murder charges, the state alleges that Ackerman unlawfully and intentionally attempted to kill a 16-year-old by handing the teen to Kennedy for sexual acts when he knew Kennedy was HIV positive.

ALSO READ: Mother and daughter tell harrowing story of paedophile partner’s abuse

According to the state, Ackerman would target minors on social media platforms, including Facebook.

He would request pornographic images or videos from the minors and sometimes pay them for such content.

In some instances, Ackerman would identify children at swim schools and holiday resorts.

In one of the incidents, Kennedy and numerous other males allegedly instructed a 14-year-old to perform massages on them, masturbate them, and give oral sex to them.

– lungam@citizen.co.za

Source: citizen