South Korea murder American man jail
A court in Seoul handed down a 20-year jail-term to an American man who killed a South Korean student in 1997. In this photo, the skyline of central Seoul is seen during a foggy day, March 4, 2015. Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji

A U.S. citizen, convicted of killing a South Korean college student in 1997, was given a 20-year jail sentence Friday, Yonhap reported. The sentence for Arthur Patterson was announced by the Seoul Central District Court, which also found him guilty of stabbing Cho Joong-pil several times at a Burger King outlet in central Seoul, 19 years ago.

The sentencing came after California-based Patterson was extradited to South Korea in September, 16 years after fleeing the country, the Associated Press (AP) reported. His sentencing was along the lines requested by prosecutors earlier. Patterson’s American friend, Edward Lee, who was with him at the time of the murder, was initially given a sentence of life in prison for the murder but was acquitted later due to lack of evidence, AP reported.

Patterson is the son of a civilian employee working with the U.S. military in Seoul at the time the incident took place. Yonhap reported that Patterson was under investigation when he left the country and was able to leave only because law enforcement authorities were not able to extend his foreign travel ban in time. Patterson, 36, is half-Korean and was indicted for murder in 2011.

Patterson and Lee, who were teenagers at the time of the murder, had accused each other of killing the 22-year-old Cho, who was found in the restaurant's bathroom with multiple wounds, AP reported. He had died on her way to the hospital.

“There is credibility in statements made by Edward Lee, an accomplice, that (he) witnessed Patterson stabbing the victim,” the court said, according to Yonhap, adding: “(Lee) incited Patterson to murder (Cho) and led the way into the bathroom (where the incident took place).” The court also said that Lee could not be punished because there was a prohibition against double jeopardy, a legal technicality which forbids a defendant from being tried on the same charges in the same case.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are currently stationed in South Korea to help Seoul tackle threats from rival North Korea, AP reported. Crimes related to American troops have triggered anti-American sentiments among many South Koreans, including some who have staged protests against their presence.