US approves S. Korean extradition request for suspect in 1997 Burger King slaying
SEOUL — A U.S. federal court has approved the extradition of a suspect in the 1997 slaying of a South Korean university student near U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Justice.
Police initially charged two 18-year-old Americans with the murder of Cho Joong-pil, who died after being stabbed repeatedly in the bathroom of a Burger King in Seoul’s Itaewon district.
Arthur Patterson, who was released after serving time on lesser charges in the case, was indicted for murder by South Korean prosecutors in December 2011.
Following the stabbing, Patterson — a dependent of a U.S. Forces Korea contract worker — was charged with possessing a deadly weapon and destroying evidence. He was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison but was released in early 1998 as part of the annual Aug. 15 Liberation Day amnesty granted by the South Korean government to approximately 2,000 convicts.
At the time, prosecutors promised to pursue harsher charges, but Patterson was mistakenly allowed to leave the country.
In 2006, a Seoul court ordered the South Korean government to pay the victim’s family the equivalent of $34,000 for mistakes made in handling the case, and the murder charge against Paterson finally was filed in December.
A prosecutor with the justice ministry said Wednesday it is unclear when Patterson, who has several legal maneuvers available to try to prevent his extradition, might return to South Korea or when his trial could begin.
The second defendant in the case, Eddie Lee, a Korean-American with no links to the U.S. military, was sentenced to life in prison for the attack. His sentence was later reduced to 20 years and he was ultimately acquitted for lack of evidence after serving 18 months.
The case has attracted widespread attention in South Korea because of the perception that the defendants received lenient treatment and was the basis for a popular 2009 movie, “The Case of the Itaewon Homicide.”