A former prosecutor serving a prison term for bribery was freed Thursday as a Seoul appellate court cleared him of some of charges and handed down a suspended sentence.
The Seoul High Court overturned a lower court's ruling on Kim Hyung-joon, who was put behind bars for 2 1/2 years, and sentenced him to one-year imprisonment suspended for two years. Prosecutors had sought a seven-year prison term for Kim.
The appeals court also reduced Kim's forfeiture from 27 million won ($23,700) to 9.98 million won and his fine from 50 million won to 15 million won.
Kim Hyung-joon, a former prosecutor convicted of receiving bribes from a friend, enters the Seoul High Court ahead of his appeals ruling on Aug. 10, 2017. (Yonhap)
Kim was found guilty early this year of receiving some 27 million won worth of bribes from his high school friend, identified only by his surname Kim. In return, the former prosecutor promised to lobby for him over the fraud and embezzlement allegations the friend had faced. Kim was removed from his post last year after the allegations surfaced.
The high court also commuted the friend's sentence from eight months in prison imposed by the lower court to a fine of 10 million won and freed him.
The upper court judged that part of the money Kim had sent to the former prosecutor was not kickbacks but a loan that was personally extended to a pal. It cited one of the text messages between the two defendants in which Kim was asking the ex-prosecutor to pay back the "borrowed" money.
"Although the defendant brought disgrace on his fellow prosecutors and undermined public trust, (the bench) took into account that the relationship of the defendants is based on friendship for more than 30 years, which may have made Kim overlook what's right and wrong, and be less wary," the judge said. (Yonhap)