Sentence for US soldier upheld by Seoul High Court
SEOUL — The Seoul High Court on Thursday upheld the six-year prison sentence of a U.S. soldier convicted of raping a South Korean teen after a night of drinking, saying it found his testimony unconvincing in the face of statements from the victim and her friend.
It was one of two rapes in fall 2011 involving U.S. troops that drew nationwide attention and led to the reinstatement of a U.S. Forces Korea curfew. The case also exposed what appeared to be a conflict between South Korean law and the Status of Forces Agreement.
Pvt. Kevin Robinson stood blank-faced as head judge Kim Ki-jeong explained the panel of judges’ findings to a packed courtroom.
Robinson had testified he had consensual oral sex but not intercourse with the victim, who was 17 at the time. He also admitted he stole her laptop.
The victim testified last month she was unconscious during the early-morning rape and didn’t realize she had been assaulted until she returned home late that night to find blood on a blanket and her bloodied underwear on the floor.
Robinson’s defense attorney, Jin Hyo-geun, argued that a key piece of evidence — her underwear — had been contaminated after the victim put it in her laundry basket.
According to testimony, the two met at a nightclub and returned to her home with another soldier and a female friend of the victim. The victim passed out. Robinson said that when he went to her room to check on her, she offered him oral sex.
Kim said a hospital examination of the victim showed no apparent signs of injury or semen, but her hymen was broken. The teen testified she was a virgin at the time of the attack, Kim said.
Kim also said the judges believed the victim, who claimed to speak little English and said she had no physical contact with Robinson before the rape, was too intoxicated to perform oral sex.
“It deviates from experience” that a young female would offer oral sex to a foreigner she had just met and had not even touched, Kim said.
He also said a statement from Robinson’s soldier friend indicated the defendant wanted to have sex with the victim.
The victim refused to testify in Robinson’s original trial and only did so during his appeal via a video feed.
Under Korean law, alleged victims in sexual assault cases are not required to testify in front of their alleged attackers, and judges can convict if they feel there is enough evidence to support the charges. The Status of Forces Agreement says U.S. servicemembers have the right to confront adverse witnesses in court.
Robinson told the court in October he has been treated unfairly by the Korean judicial system because he is an American, and that authorities have scoffed at his side of the story.
“The whole time, I’ve been guilty before I could get a fair trial,” he said.
Robinson has seven days to file what would be a final appeal to the Korean Supreme Court.