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(2nd LD) U.S. citizen gets 20-year jail term for murdering S. Korean student

All News 17:24 January 29, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS reaction from victim's family, Patterson in last 2 paras, photo, more details; 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 severest penalty possible for the defendant who was then an adolescent.

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.

"Due to Patterson's crime, the victim lost his life at a young age and the opportunities to experience all sorts of human emotions," it added. "Still, (Patterson) shifted all the blame to his accomplice and did not show any remorse, requiring a grave punishment."

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.

Though Lee was acknowledged as the accomplice, he cannot be punished due to the 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.

"Now Joong-pil will feel better," Cho's mother Lee Bok-soo told reporters after the ruling was delivered.

The defendant's lawyer said he will appeal.


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