It was a case that could have been buried.

A month had passed since the incident, and it was not even reported until it was first known to the world.

It took ten months for the re-investigation to start and the suspect to be handed over to trial after the public opinion's scolding and criticism.

This is the story of former Vice Justice Minister Lee Yong-gu's assault on a taxi driver.



I vividly remember December 19, last year, when the incident was first reported in the Chosun Ilbo.

It was a normally quiet Saturday morning.

Seocho-dong was shaken by reports of an incumbent deputy justice minister assaulting a taxi driver.

It was a natural procedure for suspicions of cover-up or pressure to be raised at the conclusion of the unexplained internal investigation.

At that time, prosecutors, who were in the role of 'mouth' of the Ministry of Justice, responded.



Even then, the issue was whether the crime of driver assault was applied under the Act on the Aggravated Punishment of Specific Crimes (Special Price Act).

This is because the police applied only the assault charge, which is an anti-indictment crime, not the special law, and closed the case on the ground that the taxi driver, the victim, did not want punishment.

It was difficult to ignore the fact that in many cases where passengers hit taxi drivers, the crime of driver assault is applied under the Special Act.

Moreover, even before the appointment, it was the case of the incumbent Deputy Minister of Justice.

Police and Justice Department not 'in operation'

The police's logic at the time was as follows. Article 5, Paragraph 10 of the Special Act on the Crime of Assault on Drivers stipulates that 'A person who assaults or threatens a driver of a motor vehicle while driving is punished by imprisonment for not more than five years or a fine not exceeding 20 million won.' , that is, it was judged that it was not 'in operation'. The Constitutional Court’s decision in 2017, which stated that “‘a car parked or stopped in a place where there is no risk of impairing public traffic safety and order without the intention to continue driving’ is excluded from the meaning of ‘in operation’.” heard as a basis



The logic of the Justice Department prosecutors was similar. At the time, a prosecutor in the Ministry of Justice spokesperson's office explained that the operation should be regarded as terminated when passengers get off at their destination rather than stopping for a while because they are caught waiting for a signal. It was also explained that taxis, unlike buses, should be viewed as a structure that ends once when they arrive at their destination. A prosecutor at the time argued that it was a happening because the reporters did not know the law.



However, ten months after the incident, the prosecutor's re-investigation concluded that "the driver's assault is correct under the Special Price Act." Even this part was not even an issue in the re-investigation. Immediately after the incident, former Vice Minister Lee's charges of destroying evidence, the police officer in charge of negligence of special duties, and suspicions of pressure from superiors became issues. What happened in the meantime? Was there any great reversal that would overturn the logic of the prosecutors, who are experts in law?

Prosecutors' re-investigation concludes, "According to the Special Price Act, it is true that the driver is assaulted"

In fact, even then, the answer was the same as mine.

I just said it wasn't the police and the Justice Department.

After that, additional media coverage raised suspicions about Lee's evidence destruction teacher and the police, and even a video of Lee's assault on a taxi driver was released (▶[Exclusive] Lee Yong-gu, strangling and swearing… 37 seconds black box acquisition ) The legal judgment as to whether or not the Special Act was violated was a part that could be sufficiently judged only by the facts confirmed at the time.


Contrary to the claims of the police or the Ministry of Justice at the time, the Supreme Court's consistent precedent and amendment bill that the category of 'in operation' in Article 5, Paragraph 10 of the Special Act includes cases where 'passengers arrive at their destination and pay fares or temporarily stop to get on or off' was the content of In the review report of the National Assembly Judiciary Committee at the time of the revision of the law in May 2015, the purpose of the amendment itself was "to prevent confusion in the interpretation of front-line investigative agencies and the courts" and "'in case of stopping for passengers to get on and off' as 'in operation'. intended to be included".



The bill review report also states that the purpose of the legislation is that 'attacking or intimidating the driver while stopping for passenger boarding or disembarking may cause psychological anxiety in the driver and increase the risk of secondary accidents'. An official from the National Assembly Judiciary Committee explained that this took into account not only additional accidents caused by assault and threats, but also the possibility of a secondary accident caused by the injured driver to the next passenger. At that time, the interpretation of the Ministry of Justice's interpretation that 'when the service arrives at the destination should be regarded as a structure that ends the operation' is contrary to the purpose of the legislation.



The interpretation of other legal experts was similar. A former Constitutional Court judge in a telephone conversation with SBS said, "There is a Supreme Court precedent that a temporary stop to get on and off passengers is during operation, and the Constitutional Court's decision acknowledged such a court's interpretation. If you do, you should see it in operation as well,” he said. A lawyer specializing in traffic accidents also answered, "Taxis are kept on, and they cannot be considered as the end of operation because they start again immediately after the customer calculates the fare and gets off." Also, he said, "It is difficult to see that the vehicle is excluded from the application of the special law because it can cause a secondary accident if the vehicle moves incorrectly due to an assault at a temporary stop." This means that even at that time, objective legal judgments were not significantly different.



There is a case in the Supreme Court where a passenger who assaulted a driver in a moving taxi was not subject to the special law. (2008, 4375) This is an incident in which the driver drove the car to the police station immediately after being assaulted and reported the passenger. At that time, the Supreme Court found that the driver 1) stopped the car within the jurisdiction of the police station for the purpose of reporting it, 1) in a place where there is no risk of disturbing traffic safety and order, and 2) stopped the car without the intention to continue driving. It was determined that the charge of assault had not been established. This is completely different from the case of the former vice minister. In the case of the former vice-minister Lee, 1) he stopped in front of the apartment security room, and 2) the taxi driver continued to operate after the incident. Even this is a precedent in 2008, and there are opinions that it would have been different if the law was revised in 2015.


Prosecutors of the Ministry of Justice who said they were not reckless, all passed away

In fact, most of these contents were also covered and reflected in the article.

However, the response of the Ministry of Justice Spokesperson's office at that time was almost nonsense.

One prosecutor responded to the reporter saying that the opinions of other lawyers, including former constitutional judges, and some frontline prosecutors were the same, stating that

'it must be the opinion of people who have bad feelings for the Ministry of Justice or the current government'

.

Without asking or questioning who it was.

(Even if I had asked, I would not have been able to disclose the source) Of course, it was an unofficial and personal opinion, so I did not take it as an issue at the time, but it was a very inappropriate statement considering that it was a statement from a prosecutor who is a lawyer.

This is because he is admitting to himself that he is judging matters based on political inclinations rather than facts and legal principles.



The subsequent course is as known.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office convened a meeting of chief prosecutors, and applied the charge of assaulting a driver under the Special Act on former Vice Minister Lee to trial.

According to the logic of the Ministry of Justice at the time, the investigation team and the chief prosecutor of the Central District Prosecutors' Office are all 'people who have bad feelings for the Ministry of Justice or the current government' or 'people who do not know the law well'.



At that time, the main prosecutors who were in the role of 'the mouth of the Ministry of Justice' returned to the prosecution, and all died.

At that time, the spokesperson was transferred to the second deputy chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, and the deputy spokesperson was transferred to the head of the Namwon branch of the Jeonju District Prosecutors' Office.

In a way, it means that you have received a sufficient 'reward' for being faithful to your role.


Jung-gu Jang and Yong-gu Lee, lost trust again

In the meantime, there was one similar but different incident. Last month, former world boxing champion Jang Jung-gu assaulted a taxi driver while intoxicated. The incident was similar, but the response afterwards was very different. The police, who had reviewed the Constitutional Court's decision in the former vice-minister case, immediately charged Jang with assault on a driver under the Special Act. It remains to be seen whether the prosecution, which handed the former vice minister Lee to trial only after eight months of direct investigation, will be as cautious about the Jang Jung-gu case.



It is at this point that the people become disappointed and skeptical of the fairness of our society. It is more deeply rooted than hereditary innocence and non-exclusive guilt. People inevitably lose their trust when they see public power that is infinitely merciful to the powerful and suddenly abstract to the weak. No matter how hard you work for a hundred days on the front line, once something like this happens, you are useless.



In fact, it is easy to find out just by searching the internet that if a passenger hits the driver in a moving taxi, the punishment will be more severe, even without looking for complicated legal principles. With the spread of taxi black boxes, articles about assaulting taxi drivers have become a regular news item for a long time, and it is necessary to include at least one sentence that the punishment will be more severe according to the Special Act. Even so, I can't help but laugh bitterly when I think of the actions of the police and elite prosecutors who went out to "space defense" by arguing with the Constitutional Court's decision and all sorts of interpretations of the law against the assault of a taxi driver by a high-ranking official.



On the other hand, I also think that they were faithful to their duties according to their position as civil servants and members of the organization. However, the process by which public authorities, especially prosecutors, has lost credibility has usually been this way. In recent years, there has been a lot of distrust and condemnation of the prosecution because of the frame that they are conducting investigations based on political interests rather than according to the law. Now, it is questionable how the prosecutors of the Ministry of Justice, who were then in command of several prosecutors, would deal with a similar case. At least you should know the shame.  

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