Justice abroad . . .

The Amsterdam child’s parents, while unnamed in the media, felt battered by the frenzy over Mikelsons. Shortly after his arrest, they turned to Richard Korver, a tall, imposing Amsterdam attorney who specializes in defending crime victims. He went on to represent about 45 families whose children were allegedly molested.

“This guy, he went through our city like a true animal,’’ Korver said in an interview this spring.
Most of the families whose children were victimized have declined to speak publicly, fearing their children will be forever stigmatized. Some have kept the truth from friends and relatives. Others have moved; in some cases, out of the country. Marriages have been ruined.

Mothers and fathers churn with anger, blame, doubts. Did I miss something? How could I not know? Some might not ever tell their children what happened.

“People got sick for a long time,” Korver said. “A lot of families are living with a secret.”

Even though he confessed, Mikelsons still had to be convicted in court and sentenced by a three-judge panel. The formal charges were staggering. He stood accused of attacking 67 children — 52 boys and 15 girls — between 2007 and 2010. Many were ravaged multiple times. Mikelsons’ attorneys declined to be interviewed for this story.

During the trial, held over several weeks earlier this year, the Amsterdam court house filled with local journalists, along with lawyers dressed in traditional black robes. Shell-shocked families watched from a separate room, away from reporters. They were allowed a closed hearing with Mikelsons. The parents of the boy with the bunny spoke, describing their initial shock and unending grief. Mikelsons did not make eye contact.

“Everything was there to protect him from parents attacking him or killing him,’’ the mother said in a recent phone interview. “I had to cry. We said what we wanted to say.”

During the trial, some facts detailed by prosecutors were so appalling that journalists stopped writing, pens frozen above notebooks.

Mikelsons, dressed in a sweatshirt and sneakers, told the judges he was under a “curse” that couldn’t be suppressed. He spoke of going to baby-sitting appointments equipped with a camera, lubricating oil, and a computer.

Late in the trial, he apologized.

“It was never my intention to hurt people,’’ he said in Dutch, according to court transcripts.

Several weeks later, in May, Mikelsons was convicted and given an 18-year jail term, plus an unspecified amount of additional time for psychiatric treatment. The sentence was too harsh, he complained, before throwing a glass of water in a judge’s face.

Child rape and pornography laws are more lenient in the Netherlands than in the United States. Under local law, Mikelsons is not punished separately for each crime.

In the aftermath of his rampage, Amsterdam officials created a commission to report on how Mikelsons was able to molest so many children without being found out. Out of that study came a requirement that childcare centers have at least two people watching children at all times.

. . . and at home

In early June, a handcuffed Diduca was led into Worcester federal court. Manning and Squire sat in the back of the room as assistant US attorney Michael Yoon recounted the investigation’s evolution, starting with the e-mailed picture of the Amsterdam boy. Diduca, said Yoon, “participated at every level of the child pornography underworld.”

Sweeney, Diduca’s lawyer, told Judge F. Dennis Saylor that his client was sorry, and had sought treatment since his “secret life was exposed.”

Diduca didn’t speak during the hour-long session.

Before imposing the 18-year sentence prosecutors wanted, Saylor said he had read “moving” letters written on Diduca’s behalf by his wife and children. Several victims submitted equally powerful statements about their suffering, he added.

But Saylor refused to look at any of the images entered into evidence. The judge said he “didn’t need” to put himself through such an ordeal. “I feel sick to my stomach about the victims, and I feel sick to my stomach about the defendant’s family.”

As they left, Manning and Squire shook hands. They were satisfied. Temporarily. The agents were soon back at work in the JFK building, trying to ensnare other Diducas and Mikelsons.

Across the Atlantic, the family of the boy with the bunny moved into a new home — a start at rebuilding. Only a start. His parents won’t leave their child, now 5 years old, alone with any adult. They worry about what will happen if his past victimization ever becomes publicly known. They live with the knowledge that images of him are likely still on the Internet, being downloaded to some deviant’s computer. It’s like being attacked again every day.

But the family is not finished with Diduca. They have hired a lawyer in the United States to seek restitution, and a court hearing is scheduled for September in the same Worcester court house where Diduca was sentenced.

The mother wants to meet the man who took perverse pleasure in her baby’s rape. She wants him to know that her son is real, not a fantasy.

She says she wants to look at Diduca, one parent to another, and tell him, “This is the life of an innocent child you have destroyed forever.’’