Former Philadelphia schoolteacher guilty of raping his daughter

Posted: April 03, 2014

Just three and a half hours into its first full day of deliberations, a Philadelphia jury on Wednesday afternoon convicted a former public-school teacher of raping his daughter during an eight-year span.

Sumo Dukulah, 40, showed no reaction when the jury foreman announced "guilty" to all the charges Dukulah faced: rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful contact with a minor, rape of a child, child endangerment and corruption of a minor.

Dukulah, who taught at L.P. Hill Elementary School in Strawberry Mansion when he was arrested last April, faces a mandatory minimum of 10 to 20 years in state prison when he is sentenced by Common Pleas Judge Gwendolyn Bright on Aug. 29.

He also faces the possibility of receiving a maximum sentence of 64 to 128 years, Assistant District Attorney Branwen McNabb said.

Dukulah did not testify during his four-day trial in Common Pleas Court. But his daughter and accuser, now 17, testified over two days, telling the jury in graphic detail how her father had sexually assaulted her in every imaginable way from age 8 to 16.

"She showed tremendous strength and courage standing up for herself against the most heinous act that anyone can commit against a child," McNabb said after leaving court.

The girl endured years of being assaulted without telling authorities, McNabb said, because her mother would not help her and her father threatened that if she told anyone, he would send her back to the family's native country, Liberia, in West Africa.

Dukulah, who had no prior criminal record and was portrayed in court by character witnesses as a churchgoing family man who tutored church members, is being held without bail.

Defense attorney Michael T. van Der Veen argued that Dukulah was not guilty and that his daughter had told a series of lies about him.

"We're disappointed in the verdict. I believe my client was truly innocent," said van Der Veen, who added he plans to appeal.

Dukulah, who immigrated to the U.S. from Liberia in 2006, began teaching in the School District of Philadelphia in November 2011. He and his wife have no other children, van Der Veen said.

At the time Dukulah was arrested last April, Capt. John Darby of the Philadelphia Police Special Victims Unit said there was no evidence that his criminal behavior carried over to the school where he worked.


" @MensahDean

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