Teen's effort to avert Singapore flogging fails

April 01, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

SINGAPORE -- A court here rejected yesterday an American teen-ager's appeal against a sentence of flogging for spray-painting cars, saying he had pursued a "calculated course of criminal conduct."

Without a trace of emotion, Michael Fay, 18, of Dayton, Ohio, was led from the high court by police to begin serving a four-month jail term in the case, which has attracted worldwide attention because of the flogging.

British lawyer Michael Sherrard, who flew in from London to present Fay's case in Singapore's appeals court, said the Fay family was planning to appeal for executive clemency from Singapore President Ong Teng Cheong.

U.S. charge d'affaires Ralph Boyce expressed American regret at the sentence and called on the government to reconsider.

"We continue to believe that caning is an excessive penalty for a youthful nonviolent offender who pleaded guilty to reparable crimes against private property," he said.

Singapore's ministry of foreign affairs attacked Mr. Boyce for making his criticism in public.

Fay was sentenced March 3 to receive six strokes of a moistened rattan cane, in addition to four months in jail and a $2,230 fine after pleading guilty to two counts of vandalism, two counts of criminal mischief and one count of possessing stolen property. He admitted spray-painting 18 cars.

Fay appealed the caning sentence, asserting that the law did not require such a punishment in cases where vandalism can be removed.

But Chief Justice Yong Pung How dismissed that argument, noting, "These acts of vandalism were committed relentlessly and willfully over a period of 10 days. This amounted to a calculated course of criminal conduct."

According to a Singapore prison official quoted in the 1970s, caning is usually administered by a prison official trained in martial arts. Those being punished often go into shock after the third stroke of the cane, and the blows usually cause permanent scars.

The case took on political significance here when President Clinton commented publicly on it, calling the caning sentence "extreme" and calling on the government to reconsider.

The Singapore government said the sentence had been handed down to 14 others in similar circumstances.

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