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Retired Navy officer sentenced to life for child sex abuse

September 11, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A retired Navy officer from Rhode Island has been sentenced to serve life in prison for sexually abusing a child for years.

U.S. District Judge John McConnell ordered retired Lt. Cdr. Ronald Zenga to serve the rest of his natural life in federal prison on Friday in Providence federal court, WPRI-TV reports.

Zenga tearfully apologized to the victim and others he’d hurt in court. His lawyer argued for leniency, saying he suffered from mental illness and was capable of rehabilitation.

But the victim’s mother described Zenga as manipulative and incapable of remorse.

Zenga, who had been stationed at the Naval War College in Newport, pleaded guilty to coercion and distributing and possessing child pornography last November. He’d previously pleaded not guilty to eight charges.

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Authorities say Zenga used a Russian website to communicate with a law enforcement agent in England, where the case started, to graphically describe an ongoing sexual encounter with a child.

The federal indictment against him showed he had transported the underage victim across state lines and another country for sex over the course of nearly a decade.

Prosecutors say the abuse happened while he was actively serving and continued into his retirement from the Navy in 2017.