D.C. Judge Hits North Korea with $501 Million Award to Parents of Tortured U.S. Hostage
WASHINGTON -- A D.C. District Court judge slammed dictator Kim Jong-un's regime with a $501 million bill today to the family of tortured and murdered American hostage Otto Warmbier.
The family of the 22-year-old University of Virginia student held hostage by North Korea and returned to the United States just days before he passed away filed a wrongful death lawsuit in April against North Korea.
Warmbier, who visited the communist regime as part of a tour group, was seized by North Korean officials on Jan. 2, 2016, before his flight was supposed to take off from Pyongyang. He was paraded before cameras the next month for a tearful "confession," admitting he took down a propaganda banner that was hanging in the hall of his hotel. "I made the worst mistake of my life," he said.
North Korea claimed the student took the poster as a "hostile act" to disturb DPRK unity at the behest of the CIA, a college group and a church in his home state of Ohio. He was sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years of hard labor and reportedly fell into a coma shortly after his sentence began.
The 46-page ruling handed down today by Judge Beryl Howell noted that Warmbier was "blind, deaf, and brain dead" when returned by North Korea.
"North Korea is the world’s 'leading' and 'best qualified candidate for indictment' at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity," Howell wrote. "An American family, the Warmbiers, experienced North Korea’s brutality first-hand when North Korea seized their son to use as a pawn in that totalitarian state’s global shenanigans and face-off with the United States. As Otto’s mother said, 'there’s evil in this world [and] it's North Korea.'"
North Korea "never entered an appearance in, or defended against, this action," so a default judgment was granted and Warmbier's parents were awarded $501,134,683.80 in damages.
The judge noted that having been told Otto was in a coma, Cindy Warmbier "pictured him asleep and thought he would be able to recover with medical care." Instead, when he landed in Ohio on June 13, 2017, after being released by North Korea, the family climbed the steps of the plane and immediately heard “loud inhuman sounds," and his condition was “horrible and unrecognizable" as Otto was “jerking violently” and “howling."
"He wore a diaper and had a 'feeding tube' and a 'shaved head,' 'his arms . . . curled and mangled,' 'his eyes . . .bulging out,' and it 'almost appeared that he had chewed a hole through his bottom lip.' His once 'perfectly straight' teeth were misaligned,'" the court document continued, adding that his sister Greta “ran off the plane screaming.” Otto Warmbier also had a large scar on his left foot that wasn't there before, attributed to electric shock torture.