Lawyer jailed 4 weeks, fined after assaulting cabby who declined to give him a ride

SINGAPORE - A drunk American lawyer assaulted a taxi driver who had declined to give him a ride as the latter was about to change shifts and was not heading towards the offender's intended destination.

Paul Chiethen Kuo, 47, was on Friday (Aug 6) sentenced to four weeks' jail and a fine of $3,000.

The Singapore permanent resident had pleaded guilty to one count each of assault and harassment.

Kuo, a practising lawyer with 20 years of experience, had been admitted to the Bar in New York and Hong Kong. He is also the chief legal officer of a Singapore-based firm.

At around 7pm on Dec 11 last year, he met some colleagues at a Korean restaurant in Tanjong Pagar Road and they downed multiple bottles of soju - an alcoholic beverage of Korean origin.

He left the eatery shortly before 11pm and went towards the nearby 100 AM shopping mall.

Mr Ong Beng Siong, 59, was seated in his taxi at the mall's waiting area when he saw Kuo walking with an unsteady gait towards his vehicle.

The cabby then asked some people at the waiting area if they wanted to go towards Tampines as he was in the midst of changing shifts.

Kuo reached the rear of Mr Ong's taxi and began banging its boot with his hand.

After that, the lawyer went to the front of the vehicle and asked the Singaporean cabby to take him home to Teng Tong Road, near Joo Chiat Road.

When Mr Ong declined to do so, the younger man moved to the right side of the taxi to speak to the driver.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ong Xin Jie said in court: "The victim then wound down the window on the driver's right side of the vehicle to speak to the accused.

"The accused, angered that the victim was unwilling to give him a ride, then threw a punch at the right side of the victim's head with his right hand."

The cabby then got out of his vehicle to confront Kuo, prompting an eyewitness to step in and separate the pair.

The court heard that Kuo "remained belligerent" and hurled vulgarities at the taxi driver.

The eyewitness alerted the police and officers arrived at the scene soon after to arrest Kuo.

Mr Ong Beng Siong went to Singapore General Hospital where he was found with a 1cm superficial wound over the anterior region of his right ear. He was given three days of medical leave.

Kuo has since made about $560 in restitution to the taxi driver.

The American was represented by lawyers Shashi Nathan and Laura Yeo from Withers KhattarWong law firm.

In their mitigation plea, they said that their client "deeply regrets his actions and is genuinely remorseful".

They added: "Although the accused fully acknowledges that being intoxicated is not an excuse for his actions, we respectfully highlight that his level of intoxication severely impaired his judgment and caused him to behave in a manner that was extremely out of character."

For assault, an offender can be jailed for up to two years and fined up to $5,000.