Christopher Glenn, a South Florida computer whiz serving 10 years in prison on an espionage conviction, is back in federal court — but this time on charges of having sex with underage girls while working as a U.S. military contractor in Honduras.
Glenn, however, is not your typical defendant. The 36-year-old West Palm Beach man fired his assistant public defender and insisted on representing himself. He even demanded a Spanish interpreter to translate the proceedings, although he was born and raised in New York and spoke fluent English during his prior espionage case.
On Monday, at the start of his sex-trafficking trial, Glenn tested the patience of a federal judge, prosecutors and jurors when he repeatedly said he was not prepared to proceed. “I’m not ready to defend myself,” he argued.
Finally, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola had no choice but to appoint a defense attorney who had been on standby. “He is clearly playing games with this court and putting me in an untenable situation,” Scola declared.
And so began one of the more bizarre trials in recent federal court history in Miami. Glenn is charged with sex trafficking with minors, possession of child pornography and other offenses while working as a computer contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense in Honduras between 2010 and 2014.
During an opening statement, federal prosecutor Vanessa Singh Johannes told jurors that Glenn was a smart, shrewd man whose crime was “to take advantage of some of the world’s poorest people.”
The prosecutor said Glenn recruited several Honduran village girls in their teens with enticements of money, shelter and food, then exploited them for sex — even forcing the victims to take what he called “vitamins” that caused them to “black out.” In one instance, she said, Glenn used a “long medical stick” to penetrate the private parts of a 13-year-old girl in his home in Comayagua, 50 miles northwest of the capital, Tegucigalpa.
Johannes said the defendant forced a couple of the girls to marry him in sham ceremonies conducted in Arabic but did not file any paperwork with Honduran officials — living out a “dark, secret life” with them. After the girls left him, she said he tried to recruit other minors in Honduran villages.
But his private life in Honduras began to unravel after the FBI began investigating Glenn’s alleged illicit activities, including discovering child-porn images on his computer dating back to when he worked as a military contractor in Iraq more than a decade ago.
Eventually, the U.S. attorney’s office in South Florida charged Glenn with violating the Espionage Act for removing classified information from computers at the Army Southern Command’s Joint Task Force Bravo in Soto Cano Air Base.
After he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in 2015, Glenn was charged with the sex-trafficking offenses last year.
Retired FBI special agent Wesley Floyd, who supervised the Honduran investigation, testified that a neighbor of Glenn’s helped investigators find one of his victims and that served as the legal basis for a search of the defendant’s two-story, concrete-block home in Comayagua. “It started with one and it snowballed after that,” Floyd testified.
But his newly appointed defense attorney, Joseph Rosenbaum, told jurors there was no evidence of child pornography implicating his client.
Rosenbaum said Glenn is the son of Kurdish Muslims who lived for a while in Latin America, where he learned to speak English, Spanish and Arabic fluently and became a valuable government computer contractor. He said the allegations that his marriages were a pretext for sex trafficking with teen girls were baseless and that the ceremonies were traditional Muslim weddings to young women.
“The government wants to bury Christopher Glenn because of what he knows,” Rosenbaum told the 12-person jury, without elaborating. “This case was manufactured against Christopher Glenn to silence him because they didn’t like what he was going to say.”