Monday, December 17, 2007

US Navy says sorry to motorist punched by sailor

"THE United States Navy has apologised verbally to the motorist who was punched in the face and thrown against two cars in the Orchard Road shopping belt last Friday by an American sailor.

The American Embassy has also pledged that the US Navy sailor will have to face the music from his ship's commanding officer. If he is found "guilty", the sailor could have his pay, rank and other privileges docked.

'Under US military law, the Commanding Officer of the ship can impose any combination of any of the following: confinement, hard labour, restriction, loss of wages, loss of rank, and discharge - punitive or administrative. The disposition depends on the investigation,'' the spokesman told The Straits Times on Monday.

'Generally, these types of incidents result in punitive action with the member's career, liberty, and pay affected.'

Mr K.M. Ho, the motorist who was assaulted, said his lawyers are taking up his case with investigators from the US Navy's Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

If the matter goes to court, it will be at Mr Ho's expense and could amount to several thousand dollars.

The 36-year-old communications manager said he was looking for a parking lot for his Sports Utility Vehicle at the open carpark near Wheelock Place when someone knocked on his vehicle.
He said that when he got out of the driver's seat to check, a 1.8-metre tall black American confronted him with fists raised and yelled 'don't mess with me''.

Mr Ho said the man punched him so hard he needed four stiches to close the wound. He found out later the man is a US Navy sailor,

'I did not provoke him and did not retailiate. I asked him what was going on and was slugged in the face,'' said Mr Ho.

He received cuts on his nose and eyesight in his left eye remains slightly blurred, possibly due to internal bleeding. Mr Ho's SUV was also dented.

An eyewitness claimed the sailor, who was arrested by police after the incident, had caused a disturbance at the car park earlier and had locked himself in a woman's car.

Responding to The Straits Times queries, an American Embassy spokesman reaffirmed the US Navy's 'great appreciation for the laws and customs of Singapore'' and pledged that the sailor will have to answer charges under US military law.

The sailor cannot be named as investigations are on-going.

The US Embassy spokesman said the sailor is from the USS Tarawa, a 250-m long warship that carries helicopters, warplanes as well as armoured vehicles and landing craft.

The embassy added that sailors are briefed on Singapore's laws before they come ashore.

Among other things, they are briefed on 'social and cultural information, local laws and customs, recreational opportunities, and security and safety issues''."


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