GI based in South Korea draws jail time for punching sergeant
July 9, 2006
PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — An Army private convicted of punching a sergeant in the head will serve his five-month prison sentence at the Camp Humphreys jail in Pyeongtaek, officials said Thursday.
Pvt. John S. McCombs of the Army’s 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade was sentenced June 24 to reduction from E-2 to the Army’s lowest pay grade, E-1, plus 150 days in jail.
A five-member jury handed up the sentence in a court-martial that began June 23 at Camp Humphreys. Earlier, the jury found McCombs guilty of assaulting a noncommissioned officer and of drunk and disorderly conduct.
The Army tried McCombs under its rules for special courts-martial before Lt. Col. Mark Sposato, a military judge.
The events that led to the court-martial began the night of March 17 at a taxi stand outside Osan Air Base, prosecutors said.
There, McCombs and two companions looked to take a taxi to Suwon Air Base, their duty station. An Air Force master sergeant also stationed there asked if he could share the cab ride.
Three of the servicemembers sat in back, the airman in the middle and McCombs on his left, according to the prosecution.
Enroute to Suwon, McCombs addressed the airman, who was in civilian clothes, with “the N word,” prosecutors said. Both McCombs and the airman are white.
The airman identified himself as a senior NCO and told McCombs his use of the racial slur was inappropriate and not to use it again.
At that point, the prosecution said, McCombs attacked the NCO, punching him repeatedly in the head.
That resulted in the assault charge. Events at the Suwon Air Base gate and then in the barracks there gave rise to the drunk and disorderly conduct charge, the prosecution said.
On arrival at Suwon Air Base, the airman was treated at the base clinic for minor injuries, then released, the prosecution said.
The jury consisted of a lieutenant colonel, two captains and two master sergeants.
Prosecuting McCombs were Capt. Nagesh Chelluri, trial counsel for the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, and Capt. Daniel Goldberg of the Area III legal office at Camp Humphreys.
Defense lawyers in the case were Capt. C. Jack Marks and Capt. Patrick Davis, both of the Army Trial Defense Service.