JEONJU, South Korea — A Kunsan airman collapsed in a South Korean courtroom Tuesday morning after a judge announced that he and a base civilian worker were sentenced to 3½ years in prison for beating a taxi driver and trying to steal a car after a night of drinking.

A third man charged in the case, Airman 1st Class Michael Carpenter, was given three years’ probation for theft.

The airman, 24-year-old Travis Martens, and Paul Chessbro, who worked at an on-base health products store, directed their taxi driver on April 22 to a dead-end street, beat him inside the car and continued beating him when he got out of the car.

The driver, Lee Ki-jung, 48, was hospitalized until May 4 for nerve damage and head, knee and other injuries, according to court testimony.

Guards rushed to help Martens, who fell and hit his head on a chair after his knees buckled as he stood while the judge read the verdict. After Martens gained consciousness, one guard laid his hands on Martens’ shoulders, and another held a cold 7-Up can against the spot where he bumped his head.

Martens, a military policeman, sat motionless with his head buried in his hands as the judge continued talking. Guards later supported Martens, who was pale and had loosened his necktie, as he limped out of the courtroom.

His attorney, Jin Hyo-geun, said Martens fainted because he didn’t eat anything for breakfast and was upset by the verdict.

“It’s not fair,” Jin said of the sentences. He said Martens and Chessbro, 21, both plan to appeal their sentences.

During a final statement to the panel of judges last month, Martens said he had made mistakes that night, had begun reading the Bible for the first time while being held, and wanted to return to the Air Force.

The head South Korean judge in the case said Martens and Chessbro were sentenced to only half of the standard seven-year sentence for injuring someone during a robbery because they hadn’t been in legal trouble before and because all three men contributed to an approximately $10,000 settlement with the taxi driver.

Prosecutors said the three tried to break into two unattended vehicles before catching the taxi and beating the driver. Police have said the Americans admitted to attacking the driver because they wanted to drive themselves to a Jeonju city nightclub.

The panel of judges said they gave Carpenter, a 27-year-old military policeman, a lesser sentence because there was no evidence to show that he participated in the beating. Carpenter has said he tried to run away from the beating instead of stopping it, and the other two defendents testified that he didn’t beat the taxi driver.

The taxi driver initially told police that Carpenter hit him, but later changed his statement, the South Korean judge said.

Carpenter declined to talk with a Stars and Stripes reporter after leaving the courtroom.

Chessbro’s father, Larry Chessbro, said his son and Martens had their bags packed at the prison on Tuesday morning, expecting to be sentenced to probation and released after the hearing. But Chessbro and his son had talked about the possibility that he might receive a jail sentence.

“We love you, Paul. Be strong. Be strong,” Chessbro called out, as his son was led from the courtroom, his head down.

Larry Chessbro said his son and Martens got harsh sentences because they are Americans.

The men gave contradictory accounts throughout the trial of what happened that night, with each placing the most blame on the others. The incident led the former wing commander to restrict servicemembers to base for more than five days after the attack.

Jin, Martens’ attorney, has said his client has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since returning from a 2005 deployment to Iraq. Insomnia caused by PTSD contributed to Martens’ actions that night, Jin said.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up