Soldier given four years for raping elderly Korean
By T.D. FLACK AND AND HWANG HAE-RYM | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 11, 2007
SEOUL — A South Korean judge on Friday sentenced a U.S. soldier to four years in prison for raping, sodomizing and beating a 66-year-old South Korean woman on Jan. 14.
Before reading the sentence, Seoul Central District Court judge Lee Han-ju told Army Pvt. Geronimo Ramirez through a translator that Korean society expects the elderly to be respected, not raped.
Ramirez, a stocky soldier clad in his slightly wrinkled Class A uniform and clutching his beret, showed no emotion during his 20 minutes in court.
Lee explained to Ramirez that he was held to the same standards South Koreans face in the local legal system and that he was not discriminated against because he’s a U.S. soldier.
The judge said the soldier’s claim that he was so drunk he doesn’t remember the attack didn’t seem possible. The fact that Ramirez raped the woman twice, forcibly sodomized her, attempted to rape her again and was able to flee the scene and resist arrest when spotted by police makes it “difficult to accept that you don’t have any memories,” Lee said.
Lee said the court also took into consideration that the soldier is only 23 years old, had no history of criminal activity, had almost finished his full yearlong tour in South Korea, and that it appeared to have been an “impulse” crime, not a pre-planned attack.
Ramirez has seven days to appeal the sentence, which will be reduced by the 54 days he’s spent in pre-trial confinement.
Defense attorney Jin Hyo-guen told Stars and Stripes that he expects his client to appeal and he’ll meet with him Monday.
Jin said Ramirez still has been unable to make any financial settlement with the woman or her family, a common practice in the South Korean legal system.
The soldier is going to put the money into a bank account for the woman, Jin said, which should help in the push for a shortened jail sentence during the appeal process. Jin was unable to say how much of a settlement Ramirez would pay.
As dozens of South Korean media left the courtroom Friday, two women and a man stood in the lobby holding protest signs. One, translated from Korean, stated: “How can you handle Korean security if you can’t handle what happens below your belt.”
The other, referring to U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell, was: “General, commander Bell, eliminate the crimes of your soldiers.”
Protester Ji Sun said she and the other two protesters were concerned citizens, not members of a civic group.
“We came out here today to let USFK to know that each Korean individual keeps an eye on your bad conduct and protests against it,” she said. “We are aware that this rape case is just the tip of an iceberg; there must be plenty of undisclosed crimes committed by USFK. The buddy system is not a fundamental solution to eliminate their criminal activities.”
Ramirez was a member of the 2nd Infantry Division’s Company E, 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment.
A U.S. Forces Korea spokesman declined to comment on the sentence.
He said Ramirez would be returned to military custody following any prison sentence. He added that most soldiers jailed for these types of crimes are discharged from the military shortly after serving their time.
Jin said Ramirez came to Seoul on Jan. 13 to celebrate his farewell with a friend. Before taking his friend back to their motel, the two had visited four different bars, where Ramirez drank a total of six or seven beers and a half-dozen mixed drinks between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.