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SEOUL — South Korean police say they’ve concluded their investigation into a Jan. 14 rape in which a U.S. soldier is accused and will forward a charge of aggravated rape to Seoul prosecutors.

If convicted, 23-year-old Pvt. Geronimo Ramirez would face a five-year to life prison term, South Korean legal officials said Thursday.

Police said Ramirez raped a 67-year-old South Korean woman three times during an early morning attack in the Hongdae neighborhood after a night of heavy drinking. He had been held off base in police custody since he was apprehended fleeing the scene, police said.

On Thursday, a detective said the case would be forwarded to prosecutors as early as next week.

Seoul Southern District prosecutors issued an arrest warrant Tuesday evening, which means Ramirez will remain in their custody until they decide whether to indict him. An official with the prosecutor’s office wouldn’t comment on the case when contacted Thursday.

The soldier’s defense attorney, Jin Hyo-guen, on Wednesday provided a copy of a letter that Ramirez wrote to the woman. In the letter, Ramirez apologizes for the abuse and trauma he was told he inflicted on her, but says “I was so intoxicated that I don’t remember it.”

U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell, during an unrelated news conference Thursday morning in Seoul, deplored the “horrible and reprehensible crime.” He also said that while he can’t promise USFK will “never have another incident of this nature,” officials are doing everything they possibly can to educate their forces.

He pointed to a message he sent to his entire command on Wednesday night highlighting how he expects troops to behave.

“We believe this alleged crime involved the consumption of alcohol, was perpetrated by a soldier acting alone, and that the soldier was almost surely a curfew violator,” Bell stated in the message.

In the message, Bell wrote that he wants:

Officers and noncommissioned officers to take responsibility for their troops.Servicemembers to adhere to the “buddy system” referenced in Command Policy Letter No. 6.Personnel to adhere to the curfew detailed in Command Policy Letter No. 7.Off-limits areas to be clearly communicated and punishment for violations enforced.Each servicemember coming to South Korea to conduct mandatory online training.Leaders to counsel their troops before off-duty activities.Hongdae — a neighborhood famed for its bars, restaurants and discos — was off-limits to U.S. troops between December 2002 and May 2006 because of “force protection concerns.” Troops have been allowed back into the area since May 1, after South Korean and U.S. military officials conducted a threat assessment, officials have said.

USFK spokesmen have refused to confirm the accused soldier’s identity unless he is indicted. A 2nd Infantry Division spokeswoman would say only that a soldier from Company E, 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment was being held in South Korean police custody.

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