Accuser in South Korea attempted rape case uncertain about second soldier's involvement
Stars and Stripes June 29, 2007
SEOUL — A South Korean policewoman told court officials Tuesday that she remembers being attacked by one American soldier, but she doesn’t know whether the second soldier on trial for attempted rape was in the room during the incident.
Pfc. Mark Feldmann has testified he was outside trying to catch a taxi when his friend, Sgt. Anthony Q. Basel, tried to rape the off-duty policewoman in April.
Basel, 23, has admitted to the court that he tried to rape the woman inside a public coed bathroom but has testified he doesn’t remember the attack.
The Camp Stanley soldiers were in Seoul on leave and had spent the day drinking in at least two restaurants and two bars. They were taken into custody by police that night trying to catch a taxi near the building where the attack occurred.
A South Korean judge ordered the audience to leave the courtroom during the woman’s hourlong testimony, at her request. The judge also banned reporters from taking notes during the trial.
According to statements made later in the trial by the prosecutor and statements defense attorney Jin Hyo-geun made to Stars and Stripes, the woman testified that she stepped out of a restroom stall and was grabbed from behind. A man covered her mouth and nose and tripped her, and she fell to the ground, hitting her shoulder and elbow, she said.
He fell on top of her, then pulled down his pants and underwear. She said she began screaming, heard the restroom door open, and then the man pulled up his pants and left.
The prosecutor said Basel asked the woman during the attack if she could speak English, which he said proves Basel wasn’t too intoxicated to remember the night.
When asked later in the trial if he had any comment, Feldmann said the woman couldn’t have known that he was or was not in the bathroom, based on her description of the room and where she was pinned to the ground.
“She couldn’t have seen me,” the 21-year-old said.
Restaurant owner Cho Sung-Hwan, who found Basel trying to rape the woman, said he knows two men were in the bathroom but he couldn’t remember where the second man was standing because he was stunned and embarrassed by the incident.
Cho said he heard the woman’s screams from his first-floor restaurant and he tried to open the locked bathroom door, which was normally unlocked. He ran down five or six stairs to his restaurant, grabbed the key, then ran back to the restroom and unlocked the door. He saw Basel on top of the woman, then ran back and asked one of his customers for help.
As they went back to the bathroom, Cho said, two foreign men passed them on the stairway.
He called police and reported that two men had left. The next day, Cho told investigators that there was one man in the bathroom. A day or two later, he told them he saw a second man in the bathroom.
Jin said Basel’s mother has offered to provide at least $10,000 to the alleged victim, but she likely will not accept a financial settlement. South Korean courts often give defendants lighter sentences if they compensate victims.
The trial will continue July 18 at 10 a.m. In the meantime, judges will consider a defense request to have Basel, a veteran of the Iraq war who lawyers said is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, undergo a psychological evaluation.