SEOUL — A South Korean judge sentenced three U.S. soldiers Friday for their participation in a Nov. 11 bar brawl in the Itaewon entertainment district.

Two soldiers — Pvt. Sylvester Antely Clark, 19, and Spc. Tydes Whiten, 27, — were sentenced to 18 months in prison for punching and striking a U.N. Club bouncer with beer bottles during the fight.

But judge Han Yang-seok suspended both sentences for two years, saying he took into account that both soldiers paid compensation to the bouncer, had no prior convictions and “had worked diligently to defend the country” as soldiers here.

Pfc. Mario Duprey, convicted of assaulting a police officer, was fined the equivalent of about $3,000.

Before the trial, both Whiten and Duprey seemed optimistic about the outcome.

“They said I could get as much as a year and six months in jail, either that or I’ll get declared innocent because I didn’t do anything wrong,” Whiten predicted. “I’m hoping to walk out of here with a clear name.”

Whiten seemed confused by the final verdict, telling his attorney he didn’t understand what had just happened.

After hearing that he would not be sent to prison if he stays out of trouble for two years in South Korea, he reacted with mixed emotions. He said he was happy that he wouldn’t have to serve time in jail, but was angry at having been convicted of a crime he said he didn’t commit.

“I’m tired of being persecuted,” he said.

Duprey, visibly shaking from what he said was adrenaline, expressed relief after hearing the sentence and said he was eager to move on with his life.

“Right now it’s all about family,” he said. “I just want to leave this all behind me and get back to my family in the States.”

Clark, who was escorted in and out of the courtroom by Army criminal investigators and restrained with his hands shackled to a belt around his waist, declined to comment.

Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.

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