U.S. Army Private Travis King could face charges for running away into North Korea, some experts say.
Catch up: King, 23, is back on U.S. soil after being “expelled” by North Korea following its own investigation of his crossing, which took place on July 18. Previously, the regime said King had harbored “ill feelings against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army,” which he allegedly cited as the reason for his attempt to “seek refuge.”
King was set to return to Texas the day before he joined a civilian tour and crossed the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) into North Korea. He was facing disciplinary action for an assault conviction in South Korea, which landed him nearly two months in jail.
Possible charges: Rachel VanLandingham, a national security law expert and professor at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, told AP News that King could be formally charged under the military justice system. However, the process could take months.
“Based on their track record, I think they’re going to court-martial him,” she told AP News. Alternatively, King could be discharged without charges, she said.
Sean Timmons, a former military lawyer at New York-based firm Tully Rinckey, told USA Today that King is “in a world of hurt.” So far, the Pentagon has determined that the soldier had been AWOL (absent without leave).
Punishments for being AWOL can vary, but they include jail time, loss of rank and a dishonorable discharge. Desertion, a more serious offense, can result in years of imprisonment, and Timmons said the Army could seek more serious charges “to make an example of him.”
In the meantime: King arrived at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, early Thursday. From there, he was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center, where he will undergo a series of medical and psychological evaluations as part of his reintegration process.
“The Army’s focus right now is on ensuring the soldier’s well-being and privacy,” Army spokesman Bryce Dubee told
reporters. “His status will be addressed at a later time by the chain of command.”