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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — A U.S. soldier was sentenced to five months of confinement and a bad conduct discharge during a court-martial Friday on charges he was absent without leave from his unit for more than nine months.

Kenneth H. Gore Jr., of the 8th U.S. Army, also was reduced from the rank of E-2 to E-1 during the half-day court proceeding.

Gore pleaded not guilty to violating Article 85 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice — desertion. But he pleaded guilty to the lesser-included charge of absent without leave with apprehension.

The soldier chose to face trial by judge alone.

Col. Patrick J. Parrish, chief judge for the 6th Judicial Circuit, had sentenced Gore to six months of confinement but a pre-trial agreement limited the sentence to five months.

During questioning, Gore told Parrish he had married a South Korean woman in early 2005 but had problems getting her a visa to return with him to the United States.

Gore said he had submitted an extension package to stay in South Korea so he could work the issue but the Army denied his request. A second request also was denied, he said, which led him to decide to stop reporting for duty so he could get her “paperwork processed.”

“I thought it would take anywhere between a couple a days and a week,” he stated in court Friday.

Instead, Gore holed up in an off-base apartment until January 2006 while his wife worked to support them, he said.

On Jan. 3, Gore said, his wife called military authorities and told them his whereabouts. A military investigator and Korean National Police who responded found Gore hiding in a closet, he said.

When Parrish asked Gore why he thought the authorities had come to the apartment, the soldier answered, “to arrest me … for being AWOL.”

Gore apologized during an unsworn statement to the court and said, “I let everyone down.”

“I created my own prison” in having to hide in the apartment, he said.

Prosecutor Capt. Rochelle Howard sought a 10-month sentence and a dishonorable discharge.

Gore broke his contract with the service, Howard argued, and “put his family in front of the Army.”

“Frankly, your honor, he owes the government 10 months.”

But defense attorney Capt. Jack Ko said a dishonorable discharge would be “highly inappropriate considering the circumstances.”

Ko said Gore was a young soldier — only 20 at the time he left — whose intentions were good.

“A few days turned into weeks, then months,” Ko said, leaving Gore to dig himself deeper and deeper into trouble.

Ko sought 30 days of confinement for Gore.

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