CAMP CASEY, South Korea — Two 2nd Infantry Division soldiers who beat another soldier the day before his discharge pleaded guilty and were sentenced in separate courts-martial at the Camp Casey courtroom Wednesday.

Staff Sgt. James A. Tucker of 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor’s Company A received six months confinement and a reduction to E-1 for beating and humiliating Pvt. Court Peterson.

Spc. William E. Baker, of the same company, received three months of hard labor without confinement and reduction in rank to E-2 from military judge Col. Donna Wright.

Sgt. Ryan Taylor testified that Peterson’s head was purple and “swollen up like a soccer ball” when he saw him in Tucker’s room around 4 a.m. on Sept. 30. The song “What Is Love” by Haddaway played on a loop in the background.

“It was surreal,” Taylor said in court. “It was almost like I walked into an al-Qaida video where they captured somebody and just beat the crap out of them.”

By then, Tucker had beaten Peterson for about 45 minutes, according to testimony. Tucker then showed the bloodied private to his wife via Web cam. He then asked Peterson for his parents’ phone number and called his mother to further berate him.

Peterson was being administratively discharged from the military, according to testimony. He was known as a “barracks thief” and was under watch that night, sleeping in the barracks weight room. Peterson was caught stealing at the post exchange earlier that day, according to testimony.

Around 3 a.m., Tucker walked by two Korean soldiers assigned to watch Peterson and began beating him. Tucker had been drinking heavily off-post that night, he testified.

When then-Cpl. Baker and Cpl. Alan Rowden showed up for their guard shift, they tried to stop Tucker. Baker and Rowden backed off after Tucker threatened to kill them, they both testified. Rowden was granted immunity for his testimony.

Baker was charged with dereliction of duty for not attempting to notify authorities.

When Baker took Peterson to the bathroom later, Peterson admitted to stealing Baker’s Xbox video game console.

Baker said he punched Peterson in the arm when Peterson taunted him about the theft. He punched him in the arm twice more before Peterson stopped.

Baker apologized to the court for his actions before his sentencing. The verdict was lighter than it could have been under his pretrial agreement, which called for three months confinement and administrative discharge. In military court, the guilty soldier receives the pretrial sentence or the judge’s ruling, depending on which is lighter.

Tucker’s supervisors stuck up for him during sentencing, calling him a “go-to” noncommissioned officer and one of the best in the battalion.

Shortly after the beating, Tucker sought psychiatric help at Camp Casey and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder from his time spent in Iraq.

Maj. Christopher Walls, who commanded Tucker in South Korea and Iraq, testified by telephone that Tucker stopped an insurgent from firing an AK-47 at him during a traffic stop in the waning days of their deployment.

“He basically saved my life,” Walls said. “That kind of performance was common for Sgt. Tucker in the eight months he was there. … Sgt. Tucker is the type in individual that we must maintain in the Army.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now