US soldier who crossed into North Korea charged with desertion

Travis King, 23, has also been charged with possessing sexual images of a child, reports say.
By Alex Willemyns for RFA
2023.10.20
Washington
US soldier who crossed into North Korea charged with desertion A portrait of Army Pvt. Travis King is displayed as his grandfather, Carl Gates, talks about his grandson on July 19, 2023, in Kenosha, Wisc.
Morry Gash/AP

The U.S. Army private who sprinted into North Korea in July and was returned home to the United States last month has been charged with desertion and remains in military custody, according to multiple media reports.

Travis King, a 23-year-old Army private, has also been charged with possessing sexual images of a child, illegal possession of alcohol and assaulting soldiers, according to the reports on Friday. The news was first broken by Reuters, which said he faced eight charges in total.

Reuters said that the charges – all laid under the Uniform Code of Military Justice – were filed Sunday, with King notified on Wednesday. Other outlets, including the Associated Press, cited a copy of the court charging document laying out the accusations against King.

A native of Racine, Wisconsin, King was expelled by North Korean authorities on Sept. 27 and brought to the Chinese border by Swedish diplomats, where he was met by the U.S. ambassador to China and flown to a base in South Korea, where had originally been stationed.

He was then repatriated to Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio, Texas, where he has been held in military custody for the past weeks.

A report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said he would likely face a hearing next week about whether he would remain there to await trial. It also quoted his lawyers saying they would mount a vigorous defense against the charges, and seek to modify his pre-trial detention.

“The conditions there are horrible and it amounts to basically putting him in solitary confinement right after he's returned from captivity,” King's lead attorney, Franklin Rosenblatt, was quoted as saying.

Presumption of innocence

A statement from King’s mother, Claudine Gates, called for the American public to afford her son the presumption of innocence.

“A mother knows her son, and I believe something happened to mine while he was deployed,” Gates said. “The Army promised to investigate what happened at Camp Humphreys [in South Korea], and I await the results. I am grateful for the extraordinary legal team representing my son, and I look forward to my son having his day in court.”

King was on a civilian tour of the Joint Security Area between North and South Korea in Panmunjom on July 18 when he sprinted into North Korea. Another person on the tour told CBS News at the time that he shouted “ha ha ha'” and then ran “between some buildings.”

He has not explained publicly why he ran into North Korea, and U.S. officials said at the time of his release that he was in “good health.”

Edited by Malcolm Foster

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Michael R Betzer
Oct 21, 2023 09:27 PM

Throw the book at him!