Witnesses clash over Itaewon brawl events
SEOUL — Witnesses offered differing accounts of events concerning three soldiers on trial for two related Nov. 11 assaults during testimony at Seoul Central District Court on Friday.
Pvt. Sylvester Antley Clark, 19, and Spc. Tydes Teron Whiten, 27, are charged with assaulting a bouncer at the U.N. Club in Itaewon. Pfc. Mario Duprey, 22, is charged with assaulting a police officer after checking on Clark and Whiten at the Itaewon police station.
Prosecutors asked Chief Judge Han Yang-seuk to sentence Clark and Whiten to 18 months in prison and Duprey to one year in prison at the final proceedings on March 16.
U.N. Club bouncer Lee Seung-ji said he did not see Clark strike him with a beer bottle but assumed he did because military police at the club arrested Clark.
Lee, who was well-built and about six feet tall, said he saw the 5’3” Whiten strike him with a bottle. The bouncer said he received no medical treatment because the bottle did not cut him, though it did leave swelling.
The bouncer said he accepted $700 each from Whiten and Clark in settlement payments.
“I agreed to the settlement with them because I thought they were expelled from Korea,” Lee said.
While first questioned by investigators, Lee said he was struck on the right side. However, the court diagram of the incident showed Lee being struck on the left side. When questioned by defense attorneys, Lee said he could not remember which was accurate.
South Korean police officer Hong Jun-gwan said he saw Clark and Whiten strike the bouncer with beer bottles, and said a military police officer also witnessed the alleged assault.
Two soldiers from Clark’s and Whiten’s unit at K-16 in south Seoul who were at the club that night contradicted Hong and Lee during testimony.
“Whiten never hit the security guard with the bottle. Never,” said Pfc. Michelle Paula.
Paula said a beer bottle whizzed by her head from behind and struck the bouncer. The bouncer turned and struck Whiten’s body with a baton, then stomped on his head when he was down, she said.
Clark then retaliated by punching Lee, but he did not use a bottle, Paula said.
Pfc. Tourey Townsend said he saw Clark punch Lee but did not see him use a bottle.
Clark, who has either been charged or has charges pending in three other South Korean court cases, has maintained since the beginning that he punched the bouncer in retaliation but did not attack him with a bottle.
Townsend also said that he saw Lee strike Whiten in the forehead with a baton.
Duprey, who was drunk at the time, maintains he was shoved by a police officer when checking on Clark and Whiten after they were arrested. When he retaliated, Duprey said, six or seven police officers beat him.
At a previous hearing, Duprey said he would file a civil-rights complaint against the officers.
Nevertheless, he apologized Friday to the police, the South Korean government, the Army and several others for his conduct. Whiten and Clark also apologized to the court and others.
Apologies are expected from defendants in South Korean court, and sometimes can lessen a sentence.
Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.