Soldiers stand trial on attempted-rape charge
June 10, 2007
SEOUL — One of two U.S. soldiers on trial for allegedly trying to rape an off-duty South Korean policewoman in April told a panel of judges Friday he was trying to catch a taxi when the incident occurred.
Pfc. Mark Feldmann, 21, testified that he told his friend, Sgt. Anthony Q. Basel, that he planned to smoke a cigarette outside the bar they were in and then catch a taxi home. The pair, based at Camp Stanley, were in Seoul on leave had spent the day drinking in at least two restaurants and two bars.
Feldmann said he tried to catch three taxis on a main street but none would stop, so he went through an alley to a side street. He said he was trying to catch a taxi there when Basel, who had just left a public bathroom, found him and told him they needed to leave.
South Korean police arrested both a short time later, saying they had tried to rape the police officer. Basel told the court that he did try to rape the woman, but remembered only being on top of her with his pants around his ankles because he had drunk at least 20 beers that day.
“I don’t remember anything about it,” he said after being asked if he recalled hearing the woman scream. Officials said the woman spent two weeks in the hospital after the attack.
Feldmann said he never went inside the building where the public restroom was located. The chief judge, who ordered reporters to stop taking notes shortly after the trial began on Friday, told Feldmann through an interpreter that it was “unusual” that he left Basel.
Another judge said he didn’t understand why Feldmann tried to catch a taxi on a side street instead of the main road.
Police have said the woman had been drinking with a friend in a bar and visited the coed restroom in the building. She was attacked when she left the stall, police allege, and one assailant attempted to rape her while the other locked the door. Her screams alerted a nearby business owner, who asked the building’s guard to unlock the door.
Basel and Feldmann had been detained two hours earlier in the neighborhood after a woman complained they had groped her as she walked home with her young daughter, police said. She did not press charges.
A member of Basel’s defense team said the soldier has had a drinking problem since he returned from a yearlong tour in Iraq, though he spent three days in a military-ordered rehabilitation program.
The 23-year-old, who lost five friends in Iraq and escaped a bomb that exploded in front of his vehicle, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from Iraq, the attorney said. Basel said he dropped out of a treatment program because he feared it would harm his chances of being promoted.
The trial, which was postponed last week after lawyers complained about the skills of the court translator, will continue June 18.
Both soldiers are part of the 61st Maintenance Company, 19th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), and have been placed on international hold, meaning they can’t leave the country until court proceedings are finished.
Stars and Stripes reporter Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.