Gambler's six-month sentence keeps paychecks flowing to pay back victims
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Pvt. Andrew Foster spent 30 minutes Wednesday pleading with jurors to give him a second chance. After almost two hours of deliberations, they granted him one.
Foster was sentenced in a court-martial to six months confinement after being found guilty of stealing more than $5,000 from three Koreans. The sentence imposed by the seven-member jury ensures that the three people will be repaid and that Foster can remain in the Army, according to lawyers familiar with the case.
“We’re thrilled,” said Maj. Tami Dillahunt, Foster’s lead defense lawyer after the sentence was announced on Wednesday, the trial’s second day. Foster, who already served six months from a similar case earlier this year, hugged his two lawyers after the sentence was read.
A member of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 8th Army, Foster was found guilty of nine specifications of larceny and one specification of wrongful appropriation. He had faced a maximum of 13 years, nine months confinement, a dishonorable discharge, and forfeiture of all pay.
If the jury of four officers and three enlisted soldiers had sentenced Foster to more than six months’ confinement or a discharge from service, his paychecks automatically would have ceased, according to instructions given to the jury by Col. Patrick J. Parrish, chief judge for the 6th Judicial Court in Seoul.
Because his pay will continue, it will be garnished to repay the three people, plus a fourth victim from a previous conviction, said lawyers involved in the case. Foster had told the jury he had no other way to pay back the victims.
“None of it’s his money,” Parrish told both sides in court while the jury was deliberating. “It’s all government money.”
During the two-day trial, the former paralegal and chaplain’s assistant admitted that to feed his addiction to gambling, he lied to his Korean friends about lost ATM cards, a quick-money scheme and the need for living expenses. He also admitted in court he needed the money to gamble in hopes he could win back $12,000 he owed another Korean man, money also lost at a casino.
A psychiatrist gave expert testimony Tuesday that he had diagnosed Foster with pathological gambling.
The government, however, argued that Foster’s gambling did not excuse his lies. Prosecutor Rochelle Howard also argued that the money indeed was stolen because Foster had not paid “even one dollar” back to the three people.
“At what point will the accused be held responsible for taking money from people?” she asked the jury during her closing statements. “Are Korean nationals supposed to be supporting a United States soldier?”
One victim, a former KATUSA, said he might have been paid back $50. Foster still owes him $847, according to Dillahunt. He owes two former girlfriends more than $5,100, according to court documents.
In March, Foster was convicted of eight instances of wrongful appropriation. In that case, Foster convinced a Korean doctor to give him $12,000 in return for buying a car in the states. Instead, Foster lost that money in one night of blackjack. He served six months and was demoted from specialist to private.