Court criticized for dismissing Holley warrantAfter the court dismissed the police’s request for a detention warrant for naturalized television personality Robert Holley over his alleged drug use, authorities are facing criticism that they are going easy on him.
Holley, also known by his Korean name Ha Il, was placed under immediate arrest on Monday at a parking lot in western Seoul for illegally purchasing methamphetamine online and using it.
The court on Wednesday dismissed the police request for a detention warrant.
“Most of the evidence against the suspect has been collected and the suspect appears to deeply regret his wrongdoing,” said the Suwon District Court in Gyeonggi, which handled the request for detention warrant. “And the suspect admitted to all of the charges laid out against him in the detention warrant.”
The Criminal Procedure Act states that the court may detain a suspect when they have no fixed residence or when they have reason to believe that they may destroy evidence or flee from authorities.
“In a hearing for a detention warrant, whether the suspect admits to the charges is the key factor,” said Kim Sung-min, a lawyer at law firm Geonwoo.
“If the suspect admits to the charges, the court believes there is a lower possibility of the suspect destroying evidence. Additionally, Ha’s face is well known to the public here, so the court probably thought the likelihood of him fleeing was slim.”
Some are unimpressed with the court’s decision.
“I guess all we have to do is admit to the charges,” wrote one Facebook user on Thursday in response to the court’s dismissal of the detention warrant request. “What great confidence that gives me regarding law enforcement.”
“Maybe there was a pressure from the Americans behind the scenes,” wrote another user on Facebook on Thursday.
There were also comments that supported the court’s decision.
“It’s just some drug use - they can’t detain a person for that,” wrote one user.
However, in another high-profile recent drug case, the Suwon District Court did detain the suspect.
Hwang Ha-na, the granddaughter of Namyang Dairy Products founder Hong Du-yeong, was placed under pretrial detention on drug charges after a warrant hearing at Suwon District Court on April 6.
Hwang is accused of selling 0.5 grams of methamphetamine to a college student and using the substance herself in September 2015, as well as illegally buying the prescription tranquilizer Clonazepam, also known as Klonopin, in April last year.
Hwang admitted to taking meth in 2015 and quitting, only to take up the drug again in 2018 at the behest of a celebrity acquaintance last year.
She denied selling drugs to the college student, identified only by his surname Jo, who was sentenced to over two years in prison at the time for the purchase and consumption of meth.
The court issued the detention warrant, stating that there is likelihood that she may flee while being investigated.
“In Hwang’s case, the court probably ruled so because they found valid reasons to keep her detained,” a lawyer told the JoongAng Ilbo. “And in her case, there seems to be more complications with the involvement of more suspects.”
The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said it has launched a new investigation into the unnamed celebrity, as well as a number of other media personalities and scions of wealthy business families whose names have come up in their inquiry so far.
But according to statistics, the rate of detention of illegal drug use suspects has declined over the years.
According to the Korean National Police Agency, the number of suspects booked for illegal drug use grew from 7,299 in 2015 to 8,885 in 2017.
But of these, the percentage of those detained has dropped from 24.04 percent in 2015 to 22.85 percent in 2017. “I think the authorities need to treat drug use with zero tolerance,” a police officer said. “The risk of addiction is too high.”
In 2016, a 51-year-old suspect was placed under immediate arrest for using methamphetamine. A court dismissed the request for a detention warrant for the suspect. After being released, the suspect used methamphetamine again and turned up at a questioning showing side effects from the drug.
“For the purpose of informing the public about the harms of illegal drug use, the authorities must strictly deal with illegal drug use,” said Jang Sung-geun, a lawyer and former president of the Gyeonggi Central Bar Association. “Only then will we be able to rid the society of the evils of crimes related to drug abuse.”
BY KIM MIN-WOOK, ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]