Both sides in South Korea brawl claim self-defense
UIJEONGBU, South Korea – A U.S. soldier charged in connection with a brawl outside a nightclub that involved about a dozen people, a knife and a baseball bat apologized Monday “to the people of Korea.”
However, Spc. Paul Noel — reading a statement in Uijeongbu District Court — added, “Anyone in my position would have done the same thing.”
Korean bar owner Lee Chang-hon, also on trial for his part in the same St. Patrick’s Day weekend incident but on the other side of the confrontation, said he, too, regrets his actions but that he also was only doing what was necessary to protect himself and his friends.
The prosecutor called the case “simple” and said both defendants should be found guilty for using potentially lethal weapons during the fight — namely, the knife and the bat — according to a courtroom translator.
He recommended that Lee get three years in prison for stabbing three soldiers, and Noel receive a 1½-year sentence for hitting someone in the head with the bat.
The judge is scheduled to issue a verdict and possible sentences on July 3.
The trial has featured wildly varying accounts of what happened during the 6 a.m. fight in The Ville, a seedy entertainment district just outside Camp Casey.
Testimony and statements read in court have suggested the brawl ultimately pitted a half-dozen U.S. troops against Lee, another soldier and that soldier’s wife, along with others trying to break things up.
Lee said the trouble began when one of the soldiers made a sexually suggestive comment toward Abby Yu, wife of Staff Sgt. Min Yu.
Spc. James Robert Lassack, who was with Noel’s group, countered previously that Abby Yu fell and was helped up by the soldiers, but their actions were misinterpreted and Min Yu brought a knife and baseball bat into the fray.
Lee was handed the knife and stabbed three soldiers — Pvt. Edward Peedin in the midsection; Spc. Alexander Jones in the buttocks; and Spc. Bobby Wright on a finger. Those soldiers have been fined undisclosed amounts for their roles in the brawl, according to a Uijeongbu District Court official.
The bar owner testified he used the knife only because the soldiers surrounded him, Min and Abby Yu and he was afraid someone was going to get killed.
Noel allegedly got hold of the bat and, according to testimony, at least one person was hit in the back of the head. He testified he used the bat only to protect his friends after Lee started stabbing people.
The soldier said he and his friends “did not mean to start trouble.”
“It is not my character at all,” he said.
The Dongducheon brawl was the most serious of three incidents involving U.S. soldiers over the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, prompting 2nd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Edward Cardon to temporarily implement a number of restrictions, including a ban on alcohol consumption, on the 10,000 soldiers under his command. Those restrictions have since been lifted.