Victim testifies as US soldier appeals rape conviction
Stars and Stripes
SEOUL — A South Korean woman has testified she didn’t realize she had been raped by a U.S. soldier until hours later because she was unconscious during the assault.
The woman, who was 17 at the time and is now a 19-year-old university student, told an appeals hearing Monday that she met Pvt. Kevin Robinson around 2 a.m. on Sept. 17, 2011, at a nightclub and drank heavily before returning to her goshitel, a dorm-style apartment commonly used by students, with him and a South Korean female friend.
The woman said she remembered Robinson and her friend helping her walk to her room around 4 a.m. She woke up around 10 a.m. to find her underwear on the floor. She left for school, and when she returned late that night, she saw blood on her blanket and her discarded underwear.
She said she realized she had been raped and reported it to police the next day.
Robinson was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted in May of raping the woman and stealing her laptop. He has maintained throughout his initial trial and his appeal to the Seoul High Court that the two had consensual oral sex but not intercourse.
The victim, however, said she spoke little English and barely talked with Robinson the night they met. She also disputed Robinson’s claim that she initiated oral sex, and said she never flirted with him or showed him any signs of affection.
Asked why she believed Robinson had raped her, she said: “I had no power to control my body. I cannot get up if I drink too much, and my clothes were off when I woke up the next morning.”
She also said she entered the Monkey Beach club in Apgujeong using a friend’s borrowed identification card and lied about her age, telling Robinson she was “20-something.” District court judges cited the victim being underage in giving Robinson what is considered a lengthy sentence in South Korea.
The victim had repeatedly declined to testify in either Robinson’s trial or appeal, causing the appeal to drag on for months and leading to Robinson’s release from a South Korean detention facility on Oct. 24.
She spoke to the court Monday via a video feed from another room because she did not want to speak in Robinson’s presence. Under South Korean law, an alleged victim of sexual violence does not have to testify in front of her alleged attacker, and a defendant can be convicted without such testimony as long as judges decide there is enough evidence to support the charges.
However, the status of forces agreement says U.S. servicemembers have the right to confront adverse witnesses in court.
A spokesman for the Seoul High Court said Robinson was released because of provisions in South Korean law and the Status of Forces Agreement that limit how long a defendant can be confined during an ongoing court case. It was unclear when he would return to confinement if the court does not overturn his conviction because he could appeal again.
8th Army spokesman Col. Andrew Mutter said Robinson, who is stationed at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, was released under provisions in South Korean law and the SOFA that restrict how long someone can be confined pending a trial’s outcome – roughly six months for a district court trial and about four months for appellate proceedings.
“The bottom line is his pretrial confinement period has expired, and we’re waiting on the results of the appellate process,” he said.
Mutter said Robinson is restricted to base but is maintaining a normal work routine and is under the supervision of a noncommissioned officer 24 hours a day.
Under South Korean law, Robinson will be allowed a second appeal with the South Korean Supreme Court if he is unsatisfied with the High Court's decision.
Highlighting the confusion the case has caused among South Korean authorities, court officials disagreed on when and if Robinson would be confined again if the High Court does not overturn his sentence. An official with the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's office who is in charge of SOFA affairs said Robinson would remain under the military's authority until his Supreme Court appeal is completed, if Robinson decides to pursue that option.
However, a Supreme Court judge said the High Court would decide after making its decision in the case whether Robinson should return to prison immediately, and would likely take into consideration whether he posed a flight risk. If the case is appealed further, Supreme Court judges would then have the right to decide whether to confine him pending the outcome of his final appeal.
Much of the questioning Tuesday centered on differing accounts the woman gave police and doctors who examined her after the attack about the date of her menstrual cycle. Defense attorney Jin Hyo-geun said the woman told doctors that her period ended about a week earlier, but she told police it ended the day of the attack.
Pressed about her conflicting statements, the woman said she did not remember what she told police because it was more than a year ago.
Jin told judges there was no physical evidence tying Robinson to the case or indicating the woman was raped. He also said a key piece of evidence, her bloodied underwear, had been contaminated when she put it in her laundry basket.
Robinson told judges he was sorry for stealing the woman’s laptop but said there were holes in the victim’s comments that raised questions about whether she was telling the truth.
“Everything I’ve said is the truth,” he said.
Judges will announce their decision Dec. 13.