In a surprising turn of events, US Army Private Travis King, who made headlines by fleeing to North Korea before being returned to the United States last month, is now in military custody and is facing a slew of charges, including desertion and possessing explicit images of a minor. This development has raised significant concerns about King’s mental health and his legal status.
Private King’s confinement and the charges against him are detailed in a charging document, though it has not been publicly announced. Desertion is a grave accusation and could result in imprisonment for up to three years, a concern amplified by King’s alleged actions. The charges against King also include assaulting fellow officers, unlawfully possessing alcohol, making false statements, and possessing explicit material involving a minor.
The sequence of events leading to his detention began when King was released from a South Korean prison, where he had served almost two months on assault charges. Shortly after, he ran across the heavily fortified border from South Korea into North Korea. Notably, he was the first American detained in North Korea in nearly five years. Initially, King was set to be sent to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he could have faced additional disciplinary actions and potential discharge.
King’s release from North Korea was facilitated by Swedish officials, who handed him over to US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns and others at the Chinese border. Afterward, he was flown to a US military base in South Korea and then to the United States.
The charges against King, including the possession of explicit material involving a minor, are particularly concerning. The charging document accuses him of soliciting a user of Snapchat to produce images of underage sexual activity, with Sean Timmons, a military law specialist, pointing out that King may have mistakenly believed these transactions were secure and private. However, Snapchat retains records of these communications, making them accessible to the government.
King’s case is marked by unusual twists, from his daring border crossing to the ensuing charges he faces. It also underscores the complexities of handling a serviceman who willingly went into enemy territory and the legal ramifications associated with his actions.