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Exclusive-US Army charges Private Travis King with desertion over dash into North Korea

Exclusive-US Army charges Private Travis King with desertion over dash into North Korea © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Army soldier Travis King appears in this unknown location, undated photo obtained by REUTERS/File Photo

By Phil Stewart

(Reuters) – The U.S. Army has charged Private Travis King with crimes ranging from desertion for running into North Korea in July to assault against fellow soldiers and solicitation of child pornography, according to documents obtained by Reuters.

The Army’s case against King, which has not been previously reported, includes eight distinct charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, setting up a substantial legal battle for the 23-year-old soldier after his release from North Korean custody in September.

The Army did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement provided by a family spokesperson, King’s mother, Claudine Gates, expressed her unconditional love and asked that her son “be afforded the presumption of innocence.”

“The man I raised, the man I dropped off at boot camp, the man who spent the holidays with me before deploying did not drink,” Gates said. “A mother knows her son, and I believe something happened to mine while he was deployed. The Army promised to investigate what happened at Camp Humphries, and I await the results.”

For weeks, the U.S. Army has deferred questions about whether King would face disciplinary action, saying its priority has been on ensuring the soldier received the proper care after being held for two months by North Korea.

His release by North Korea in September followed weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations that led the Swedish government to retrieve King in North Korea and bring him across the border into China for a handoff to the U.S. ambassador.

King was flown to a military hospital in Texas on Sept. 28 for medical evaluations, including for his mental health.

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