Hollywood cameraman hanged himself after child abuse arrest in Cebu

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American hanged himself
Jesse Phinney was found hanged in his cell after he was arrested on suspicion of child abuse and human trafficking. Picture via Facebook

A Hollywood cameraman, who worked on Keeping Up with the Kardashians and The Apprentice USA, hanged himself in his cell after being arrested on suspicion of child abuse in Cebu.

Jesse Golden Phinney, aged 42, was taken into custody by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) after a raid on his apartment in Talisay City.

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According to police reports, an eight-year-old girl was rescued and high-end camera equipment and production lighting were seized, along with children’s clothing, including bikinis, and toys. The girl is now in the care of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

NBI director Patricio Bernales said a security guard found the suspect hanging lifeless from his belt at 6.40am yesterday (Tuesday, December 5). A report on ZXPN Radio Newstalk said a female detainee had heard noises coming from Mr Phinney’s cell at 2am. He was declared dead on arrival at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center.

Officer Bernales said he was surprised at the apparent suicide, because the suspect had been cooperative and could have posted bail. “When we interviewed him, he was fine,” he added.

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According to the Cebu Daily News, Mr Phinney was arrested following a tip-off from Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, chairwoman of the Provincial Women’s Commission. He was suspected of violating the Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act and the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.

However, officer Bernales said: “So far, we haven’t found any evidence to really prove that he trafficked minors, such as lewd photos. We have to secure another warrant from the court to authorise the booting up of the devices of the deceased.”

Despite this, officer Bernales told the Freeman newspaper: “On the cellphone in his possession last night, there were so many pictures of children, of other nationalities.” There was no suggestion that any of these pictures were obscene.

Mr Phinney’s Facebook profile says that he was from Newton, Massachusetts, but living and working in Los Angeles.

His timeline features numerous photographs of previous visits to the Philippines, as well as other Southeast Asian and Central American countries.

Industry website Hollywood.com lists numerous TV shows that Mr Phinney had worked on as a cameraman, including Keeping Up With the Kardashians and The Apprentice USA. In more recent years he progressed to working as director of photography, specialising in reality TV.

UPDATE: Friends of Jesse have contacted PLN with some serious concerns about the police account of Jesse’s death, and also the allegations against him. Read more here

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