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U.S. Soldier Guilty in Sex Assault Case

February 13, 2003

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ A U.S. military court sentenced an American soldier to 30 years in jail Thursday for sexually assaulting a South Korean soldier.

Two other American soldiers have been questioned in the attack but not charged.

Sgt. Leng Sok was court-martialed at Camp Casey in Dongducheon, north of Seoul. He was found guilty of aggravated assault, indecent acts, sodomy, submission of a false official statement and conspiracy, said Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, a spokesman for the U.S. Eighth Army.

A panel of seven officers, three noncommissioned, sentenced Sok, who is of Thai descent, to serve 30 years in jail in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Boylan said. Sok can appeal the ruling.

The sergeant was also reduced to the rank of private and will forfeit all his pay and allowances while in jail, Boylan said. He will receive a dishonorable discharge after serving out his sentence.

Sok, who had served in the division artillery of the 2nd U.S. Infantry Division in South Korea, belonged to the 21st Infantry Regiment in Fort Lewis, Wash.

The victim was one of 4,600 South Koreans serving with the U.S. military in a group known as the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army, or KATUSA.

He was assaulted last March at a training center at Camp Jackson, a U.S. military base north of Seoul. The U.S. military declined to release information on the victim, including whether he is still serving with the U.S. military.

South Korean authorities had primary jurisdiction because the assault took place while Sok was off duty but ``given the nature of the case″ decided to hand it over, Boylan said, without elaborating.

Officials at South Korea’s Justice Ministry were not immediately available for comment.

Last year, there were huge protests across South Korea after U.S. military trials acquitted two American soldiers of negligent homicide in the deaths of two South Korean girls. The soldiers were on a training mission when their armored vehicle struck the 13-year-old girls.

Thousands of South Koreans took to the streets to demand retrials in a South Korean court and revisions to a treaty governing the 37,000 U.S. soldiers in South Korea.

The 1996 Status of Forces Agreement gives the U.S. military jurisdiction over American soldiers accused of crimes while on duty, although it allows South Korea to try them on a case-by-case basis.

Many South Koreans say the treaty should give South Korea more power, however U.S. officials have ruled out an immediate revision.

Update hourly