Prosecutor Will Not File Charges Against U.S. Swimmers For Prank
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ No charges will be filed against two U.S. Olympic swimmers for the theft of a marble lion’s head from a hotel bar and they can return home now that they apologized for the prank, a prosecutor said Friday.
″The case is now closed and they can leave the country,″ senior prosecutor Yoo Sung-soo said.
Yoo said he notified the U.S. Embassy that gold-medal winners Troy Dalbey and Doug Gjertsen and a third American, Ernest Mangum, can leave Saturday.
The prosecutor said he decided not to charge the three Americans because they wrote statements repenting for the action and apologized to the South Korean people.
Police said Dalbey and Mangum admitted removing the $830 carving from a Seoul hotel Saturday, but that an investigation showed Gjertsen was not involved. Authorities said Dalbey and Mangum, who identified himself as a friend of the two swimmers, were drunk when they pulled off the stunt.
It was not immediately clear why Gjertsen apologized if he was not involved.
The case attracted nationwide attention. Hundreds of Koreans called newspapers and police to demand the swimmers be punished and prevented from leaving the country.
The two swimmers said in a statement Tuesday that they were being exuberant and the incident was a prank to celebrate their gold medal victories in two Olympic events the previous day. The two apologized and said they hoped the incident would not damage U.S.-South Korean relations.
The two swimmers will keep their medals, but U.S. Olympic officials kicked them off the team and said they were to be sent home as soon as they were cleared with police.
The incident received wide publicity because it took place at a time of growing anti-U.S. sentiment among South Koreans during the Olympics. Incidents involving U.S. athletes and news media touched off a wave of anti-Americanism.
Many South Koreans are displeased by the disorderly conduct of U.S. athletes during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. NBC television also came under fire for its allegedly ″biased″ coverage of a boxing bout, during which South Korean sports officials attacked a referee.