Soldier found not guilty in Itaewon stabbing
CAMP CASEY, South Korea — In a bar with about 30 people, no one actually saw Spc. Eric T. Eccels get stabbed — except Eccels himself.
No one ever found the knife that would have explained his lacerated cheek, the 3½-inch-deep wound in his back or the scrape on his stomach.
Eccels accused Spc. Brian A. Rajanoor of attacking him that night.
Rajanoor told the court he pushed Eccels, but never stabbed him before leaving Polly’s Kettle Bar in Seoul on Jan. 6, 2007 — without his Korean girlfriend but with her jacket.
Rajanoor’s unusual exit and claims from Eccels’ friends who were at the bar that night weren’t enough for a nine-member jury to convict Rajanoor of aggravated assault with intent to murder, or any lesser charges, in a Camp Casey courtroom Wednesday. The specialist was acquitted.
Eccels told the court he was standing along the center of the bartender’s table around midnight, when he felt something like a punch to the mouth.
He then felt the same sensation on the left side of his back, which knocked him to the floor.
When he looked up, Eccels said he saw Rajanoor poised to stab him in the stomach. The knife grazed him, he said, before Rajanoor ran away.
“You don’t really forget someone when they tried to stab you, sir,” Eccels told prosecutor Capt. Michael Sweetman during direct examination.
Defense attorney Capt. Jack Ko questioned Eccels’ accuracy.
In an earlier statement, Eccels claimed to have had seven or eight drinks that night; in court, Eccels said he had five drinks.
In an earlier statement, Eccels had claimed the incident began in a different location within the bar.
There was no evidence of blood collected from the floor where Eccels told the court he fell down, although blood was found farther away, Ko said.
“The last person [Eccels] remembered seeing was Spc. Rajanoor,” Ko said. “He wanted someone to take the blame for the pain he endured.”
Rajanoor — now with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division — formerly served in the United Nations Command Honor Guard at U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan.
Eccels was serving in the honor guard at the time of the incident; however, he said, he didn’t really know Rajanoor.
Immediately following the incident, Eccels told another soldier present that he saw that soldier and the man who stabbed him talking on the bus one day during a United Service Organizations tour.
The solider identified the assailant as Rajanoor; however, Rajanoor told the court he had never been on a USO tour and no evidence was offered to the contrary.
Following the incident, Eccels’ friends began looking for Rajanoor while others rendered first aid.
An ambulance took Eccels to 121st Combat Support Hospital on Yongsan Garrison, where a tube was inserted into his back to drain fluids.
Eccels later suffered infections and will have permanent scarring on his back, according to court records.
Wednesday’s court-martial was the second in two days in which a soldier was accused of stabbing another soldier. On Tuesday, Pfc. Anthony Bailey, 40, received 30 days in jail for assaulting his roommate.