Five GIs sentenced for Korean taxi driver robbery, assault
May 4, 2006
UIJEONGBU, South Korea — Five soldiers were found guilty and sentenced to prison in Uijeongbu court on Tuesday for the Christmas-night assault and robbery of a taxi driver.
Pvt. Kidrem Cortez Porter, 21, received four years in prison, minus 67 days of time served at a Seoul detention center.
Four others received sentences of three and a half years in prison: Spc. Nicholas John Durkin, 21; Pfc. John D. McCall Jr., 21; Pvt. Javon Joshua Reid, 20; and Spc. Ivey Nathaniel Westbrook, 21, who received credit for two days of time served in detention.
“You are all military personnel of the U.S. Army and therefore must respect Korean law,” lead judge Cho Yun-shin said through an interpreter.
“You committed this act forgetting your duties. Therefore, you need to be punished severely.”
The soldiers should be imprisoned for at least seven years under South Korean law, Cho said. However, Cho said he sentenced the soldiers “as leniently as possible” after considering their ages, their remorse and the taxi driver’s wishes after each soldier came to a financial settlement with the driver.
The driver received 12 million won, or about $12,000, from Durkin, Reid and McCall. Westbrook and Porter also paid settlements.
None of the soldiers spoke or showed any emotion during the sentencing.
Porter already is serving an 18-month sentence for stealing an item from a bar in March 2005. Because of heavy traffic from Seoul prison to the courthouse, Porter arrived late and was sentenced separately from the others.
None of the other soldiers had any prior arrests in South Korea, which Cho said he considered when determining sentences.
The soldiers were drinking on Christmas night when Porter suggested they rob a taxi driver, according to testimony. However, they said, they did not take him seriously at the time.
The soldiers hailed a taxi driver at Uijeongbu Station and asked him to take them to Camp Stanley. When McCall asked the cab to pull over so he could urinate, Porter struck the driver over the head with a beer bottle.
Porter said he’d drunk nine glasses of liquor that night, in addition to the beer he was drinking in the taxi. He was restricted to base pending his appeal of the March 2005 robbery but left anyway.
Defense attorneys tried to use the soldiers’ intoxication as a mitigating factor but Cho told Porter he was unconvinced.
“The court cannot accept that you were so intoxicated that you could not make a good judgment,” Cho said.
After Porter struck the driver, the soldiers stole $180 from the driver.
Durkin said he came along only to avoid getting harassed later and hid behind a nearby house during the crime.
Reid said Westbrook and Porter stuffed the driver in the trunk, but the two either denied involvement or declined to answer when questioned. McCall drove the cab around afterward, he testified.
The soldiers have seven days to appeal their sentences.