Two privates plead guilty to Nov. 17 assault on taxi driver
SEOUL — Two U.S. soldiers pleaded guilty in South Korean court Wednesday to the brutal Nov. 17 attack of an off-base taxi driver at Itaewon.
Pvt. Anthony Faulkner and Pvt. Justin Brown — both with 19th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), 595th Maintenance Company — apologized during a one-hour appearance in Seoul Central District Court.
Brown admitted initiating the attack by choking 51-year-old taxi driver Baek Gwang-yong while he was at the urinal, pushing him to the floor and punching him repeatedly in the face.
Judge Han Yang-seok asked Brown why he attacked the driver.
Brown said he was too drunk to know what he was doing at the time.
Faulkner said he tried to separate Brown and Baek, but when the driver resisted, he punched the man twice.
When they tried to flee, Brown said the driver grabbed his arm so he punched the older man again.
Prosecutors said Baek required six weeks of medical care.
“I feel sorry for what I did,” Faulkner told Stars and Stripes as he and Brown waited in the hallway before the hearing. “What I did was unethical. It went against everything I believe in and normally I wouldn’t do anything like that. It’s just something I saw and I kind of joined in without meaning to. It just kind of happened.”
Brown declined to comment, saying that one time on the front page of Stars and Stripes was enough.
Prosecutors asked that Brown be given a year in prison since he initiated the attack and lied to police during the investigation. They want Faulkner to serve 10 months to a year because they claim he helped hold Baek down during the beating and because he also struck the driver.
Brown’s attorney is seeking a suspended sentence because the soldier paid a $5,000 personal settlement to the victim and had never been in trouble before.
Faulkner’s attorney asked for leniency, saying he had not planned to attack the driver and that he had already provided $1,100 to be put toward a settlement with Baek.
Both soldiers took the opportunity to make statements to the judge.
“I was highly intoxicated and I didn’t think clearly about what I was doing,” Brown said. “I lied because I was scared. I had never been in trouble before and I didn’t know what was going to happen. Over time I’ve felt bad about what I did.”
Faulkner also apologized.
“I’m sorry for all of the trouble we caused,” he said. “We’re still young, and still immature. We don’t always think like we should as adults.”
Sentencing is scheduled to take place May 4 at 10 a.m.