Self-defense plea dropped; soldier gets jail for fight near Camp Casey
January 17, 2008
CAMP CASEY, South Korea — The first punch was self-defense. The next five were not.
For a moment, it seemed Spc. Milton Bermudez II’s guilty plea to an assault charge might be rejected by military judge Col. Donna Wright at the Camp Casey courtroom Tuesday.
Pvt. Ramon L. Torres-Santiago struck first with a glancing blow on Aug. 5. Bermudez told Wright that he punched back in self-defense.
“Was it self-defense?” Wright asked.
“It was very quick, your honor,” Bermudez replied.
Because self-defense is a legitimate defense against an assault charge, Wright called a recess and Bermudez conferred with defense counsel Capt. Brigid Osei-Bobie.
When court reconvened, Bermudez changed his mind about the self-defense claim and preserved his plea agreement with prosecutors.
He was sentenced to four months in jail and reduction in rank to E-1.
Using both fists, Bermudez bloodied Torres-Santiago’s face until he dropped to the ground, according to court documents.
Torres-Santiago suffered a right eye hemorrhage, a 5-centimeter cut above the left eyebrow and a complex cut on his nose.
Bermudez ran into the private at the Hymalya Club in “the ville” outside Camp Casey’s main gate that night, asked him to step outside and accused him of flirting with Bermudez’s wife.
Torres-Santiago denied the accusations, according to court documents.
Bermudez then called his wife, who repeated the accusations to the private while Bermudez listened. According to court records, she said Torres-Santiago had flirted with her and told her that her husband had been unfaithful.
The two soldiers then walked to the Bosan train station, where they began fighting.
A local club owner called military police, who spotted Bermudez running. They caught him trying to climb a fence into the Zen Motel parking lot.
A charge of fleeing from police was dropped as part of Bermudez’s guilty plea.
Prosecutor Capt. Jason Richardson asked for a 12-month jail sentence and a bad-conduct discharge.
“What this boils down to is a brutal and senseless attack against a fellow soldier,” Richardson said.
The defense characterized Bermudez as a fine soldier who made a mistake.
“He’s not a monster,” Osei-Bobie said. “These are the actions of a young man who let his emotions take control.”
Bermudez’s supervisor, Staff Sgt. David Rodriguez, called him an outstanding soldier he could always rely on as his clerk at 2nd ID headquarters on Camp Red Cloud.
Bermudez later apologized to the court and his family.
He faced a maximum punishment of three years imprisonment, a dishonorable discharge and reduction in rank to E-1.
His plea agreement would have required him to serve 10 months in jail. In military court, the lesser sentence coming from either the judge or the plea deal is passed to the convening authority for approval.
Name: Spc. Milton Bermudez II.
Unit: Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, Division Special Troops Battalion.
Charge: Article 128, assault.
Sentence: Four months in jail, reduction in rank to E-1.