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(LEAD) U.S. citizen gets 20-year jail term for murdering S. Korean student

All News 16:36 January 29, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS photo, more details throughout; Minor edits)

SEOUL, Jan. 29 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. citizen accused of murdering a South Korean college student in 1997 received a 20-year jail term Friday.

The Seoul Central District Court found Arthur Patterson guilty of stabbing Cho Joong-pil, who was then a college student, multiple times at a Burger King in the popular foreigner district of Itaewon in central Seoul 19 years ago.

"There is credibility in statements made by Edward Lee, an accomplice, that (he) witnessed Patterson stabbing the victim," the court said.

The 36-year-old defendant has been denying the charges and pointed to Korean-American Lee, who he was with at the site of the homicide, as the culprit.

"(Lee) incited Patterson to murder (Cho) and led the way into the bathroom (where the incident took place)," the court said.

While acknowledging Lee as the accomplice, the court said he cannot be punished due to prohibition against double jeopardy.

A local court found Lee guilty of murder and sentenced him to life in prison in 1998, but he was acquitted by the Supreme Court the following year on a lack of evidence.

At the time, Patterson, of half-Korean parentage, was in Seoul as the dependent of a civilian worker with the U.S. military. He fled the country in 1999 after he was pardoned and released on charges of destruction of evidence and weapon possession.

His departure was possible because law enforcement authorities failed to extend his foreign travel ban.

Patterson was indicted for murder in December 2011 and was extradited to South Korea in September 2015.

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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