Fourth servicemember gets jail, reduced rank for South Korea bar brawl
(Mr. Waddington represented SGT MJ, mentioned below. SGT MJ is charged with multiple aggravated assault charges. At SGT MJ’s Article 32 in July 2009, the Investigating officer heard all of the evidence and recommended dismissing all court-martial charges. However, in the typical unfair manner common in military cases, the SJA and the prosecutors overrode the Article 32 officer’s recommendation and recommended to the convening authority that the case be referred to trial. The trial is set for October 8-9, 2009 in Yongsan Army Base, South Korea).
By Ashley Rowland, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Tuesday, August 18, 2009
SEOUL — A fourth U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan soldier was sentenced last week in connection with a February brawl outside a popular Itaewon nightclub that left one soldier with a life-threatening stab wound to the chest.
Pfc. Antonio Webb, a cook with the 1st Replacement Company, was convicted Monday of two specifications of assault consummated by battery for punching a soldier four times and for pushing and pinning another soldier against a car outside the King Club. He was sentenced to 45 days of confinement and reduction in rank to E-2.
Webb said in court that he joined the melee in an “adrenaline rush” but remembered little of the night because he had been drinking. The fight had started inside the club after someone pulled out a knife, he said.
The Feb. 1 fight was the most high-profile in a number of what U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Walter Sharp called “incidents of indiscipline” since last summer, when he shortened the weekend curfew to 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.
A Seoul resident who witnessed the fight said during Webb’s court-martial that it was the worst he had ever seen and that it contributed to the negative stereotypes that South Koreans have of U.S. soldiers — in particular, that they cause mayhem and their presence is worthless.
“It just shines a real negative light on the U.S. military, and it kind of destroys all the good work that the U.S. military does, with one incident,” said Johnny Collins, who was born in South Korea and adopted by an American couple.
Collins testified that a group of 10 to 15 men stood in the street outside the club and stopped traffic after U.S. military police and South Korean police emptied the club.
“They just looked really angry,” he said. “A couple of guys took off their shirts like they were waiting for something to happen.”
Two other men came outside, Collins said, including one with welts on his head from the fight inside. They stood there and “didn’t do anything” as the crowd taunted and threatened them, he said. The men were identified in previous courts-martial as Spc. Michael Charles and Pvt. Matthew Bonham.
A melee broke out after someone in the crowd kicked one of the men in the back of the head, Collins said. The fight moved into the street, and one of the men was pushed against a car and beaten. The police inside the club didn’t come out to stop the fight, he said.
He said the fight ended when the soldiers “were tired of kicking and punching.”
“This was horrible, and it was just American soldier on American soldier,” he said. “They didn’t deserve the beating that they got outside, whatever they did inside.”
Charles suffered a punctured lung when he was stabbed during the brawl, but no one has been convicted of the stabbing.
Pfc. Carlton J. Lyles Jr. was acquitted in June of attempted murder and obstruction of justice in relation to the incident.
Others who have been convicted for participating in the fight are:
n Spc. Kenneth Jenkins, Special Operations Command-Korea, who was convicted of assault consummated by battery for punching a soldier several times. He was sentenced to reduction in rank to E-1 and 60 days of confinement.
n Pfc. Christopher Johnson, 142nd Military Police Company, who was convicted of assault consummated by battery for kicking and punching a soldier multiple times. He was sentenced to reduction in rank to E-2 and 30 days of confinement.
n Sgt. Darren Clay, 142nd Military Police Company, who was convicted of assault consummated by battery for punching a soldier one time. He was sentenced to reduction in rank to E-4 and 20 days of confinement.
At least two more soldiers will be court-martialed in the case: Sgt. Markease Joyner, who is charged with three counts of false official statements and two counts of aggravated assault, and Spc. Markelle Joyner, who is charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count of false official statement, said 8th Army spokesman Walter Hamm. The twin brothers are scheduled to be court-martialed separately in early October.