SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A Seoul court sentenced an American to 20 years in prison Friday for fatally stabbing a South Korean university student at a Seoul Burger King restaurant in 1997.
The sentence by the Seoul Central District Court of Arthur Patterson, 36, from California, was the same that had been earlier requested by prosecutors. Patterson has one week to appeal, according to court spokesman Joon Young Maeng.
Patterson was extradited to Seoul in September, 16 years after he fled to the U.S.
Patterson's American friend, Edward Lee, who was with him at the time of the murder, was initially sentenced to life in prison for killing 22-year-old student Cho Choong-pil. But Lee was later acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Patterson had originally received an 18-month term for destroying evidence and possessing a dangerous weapon. Patterson was the owner of the knife used in the killing, and he threw it down a drain afterward, according to South Korean media reports. He was later freed in a special amnesty and fled South Korea in 1999 while authorities launched a new investigation, according to South Korea's Justice Ministry.
Patterson and Lee, both teenagers at the time, accused each other of killing Cho, who was found with multiple stab wounds in the Burger King bathroom and died on the way to a hospital. Cho was a stranger to both Americans.
Patterson was in South Korea at the time of the killing because his father was a civilian employee working for the U.S. military.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to help deter potential aggression from North Korea. Crimes involving U.S. military personnel are a long-running source of anti-American sentiments among many South Koreans. The restaurant where Cho was killed was located in Itaewon, a popular shopping and entertainment district near the U.S. military headquarters in Seoul.