South Korean prosecutors want jail for soldier in bar fight
UIJEONGBU, South Korea — Uijeongbu prosecutors asked the court to sentence a U.S. soldier accused of assault to 18 months in prison, as testimony in the trial concluded Wednesday.
Pvt. Dustin Roper is accused of attacking two South Korean men outside the JJ Bar in Dongducheon on April 25.
The only witness to testify Wednesday was Kim Jung-chul, owner of the JJ Bar, where the assault allegedly took place.
Kim testified that a fight involving Roper, another soldier and the South Korean men erupted after a misunderstanding over an unpaid bar tab.
The South Korean men, thinking Roper owed the bar money, chased him outside and confronted him, making demands of “money, money, money,” according to Kim.
Kim said he witnessed a “Korean man fighting a foreigner,” and added that he thought the Korean man’s life was in danger.
He testified that he saw Roper sitting on and striking a heavy-set Korean man.
When defense attorney Jung Jin-sung challenged Kim’s recollection, Kim changed his statement and said he couldn’t remember if Roper was on top of the Korean man.
He added that at one point, the thinner Korean man was holding Roper’s arms while the other Korean hit the soldier.
Roper challenged parts of Kim’s testimony, saying Kim never saw the beginning of the fight.
“What he saw was us trying to get away,” Roper said.
Roper later apologized for the incident.
“I want to say I’m sorry to the Republic of Korea, the court and the bar owner,” Roper said. “It was a misunderstanding. I’m very sorry this happened. I had no intention of doing any harm.”
Roper also faces indictment on unrelated charges of burglary and damaging property. He has been the focus of anti-U.S. military protests in the area since May 19, when he was arrested after police found him near a beauty shop that was on fire.
Prosecutors did not charge him with arson, but said he likely will face lesser charges.
During an earlier hearing in the assault case, the soldier who was with Roper at the JJ Bar on April 25 testified that Roper was assaulted by the two South Korean men.
Pfc. Roy Anderson told the court that he and Roper met two women in the bar and ordered them drinks. The two Korean men, Kim Yung-soon and another man named Baek, joined them at the table.
When they attempted to leave the bar, Anderson testified, an employee told them the women had ordered a meal before the soldiers had arrived but hadn’t paid for it. Anderson said he told the bar employee he didn’t have money to pay for their meal, but that he would go outside to help find them.
Anderson testified that when he left the bar, “we heard screams from the stairs.”
He said he found Kim and Baek holding Roper, who was curled up on the ground, and that one of the Korean men ripped his shirt as Anderson tried to help free Roper from the fight.
The soldiers fled the scene and were arrested at a nearby train station.
Anderson said one of the Korean men punched him in the face after they were arrested.
Roper’s next appearance in court is scheduled for Nov. 21.