Court hears testimony in Onken appeal
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — South Korean judges heard testimony but made no decision in the appeal of a U.S. Army sergeant convicted in a fatal drunken driving accident.
Park Seon-ki, the attorney for Sgt. Jerry Onken, said the three-judge panel heard from the father of 22-year-old Ki Kyoung-sun. The woman died Nov. 28 after Onken’s car went through a red light, then struck the car in which she rode.
Park said the father recommended a severe punishment for Onken. The soldier, who belongs to the 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment at Suwon Air Base, was sentenced to three years in prison in February.
The father said Onken has not paid compensation but Park said the U.S. government has indicated it will pay a claim after approval from the South Korean government. The victim’s family has received about $100,000 from the company insuring the car in which she rode but Onken’s car was uninsured, Park said.
Park said Onken apologized to the father again for the crash.
After the crash, Onken and two other soldiers fled the scene, police said. Authorities located him on base, and a blood test was taken about six hours after the crash, trial testimony revealed. Prosecutors estimated his blood alcohol level was about .103 after the crash.
Onken admitted to drinking three beers and two whiskey cocktails on the evening of the crash but denied he was drunk.
The 33-year-old was the first soldier to be held in custody by South Korean authorities prior to sentencing, under an agreement established with the United States in 2001.
The next hearing is scheduled for May 19.