Former US Navy Seal gets four weeks' jail for punching taxi driver; fined $800 for mischief

Ian Damery Fitzgerald was sentenced to four weeks' jail and fined $800. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - A former US Navy Seal convicted of punching a taxi driver and hurling the cabby's walkie-talkie into Marina Bay was sentenced to four weeks' jail and fined $800 on Monday (Nov 2).

American student Ian Damery Fitzgerald, who is appealing against his conviction and sentence, was allowed bail of $5,000.

The 31-year-old, a former member of the US Navy's principal special operations force, was convicted last month of punching Mr Lim Chin Sheng, 42, on the face near Marina Boulevard at about 12.50am on May 31 last year; and for mischief.

The 1.9m tall Fitzgerald denied hitting the cabby and throwing the walkie-talkie into the sea. He claimed that he threw Mr Lim's mobile phone onto a grass patch to diffuse the situation.

The trial went on for 5-1/2 days.

The court heard that Mr Lim was driving his taxi along Marina Boulevard just past the NTUC Centre when Fitzgerald stood in the middle of the leftmost lane to flag down the taxi. He was with his girlfriend, Ms Erin Alexander, who was working in Singapore.

After the couple got into the taxi, Mr Lim refused to take them to Balmoral Crescent. He felt uncomfortable picking up passengers at roads which had double zigzag lines, as it was a traffic offence.

Mr Lim then left the taxi. The couple also got out and Ms Alexander walked away without Fitzgerald.

The cabby saw Fitzgerald taking his pouch from the front driver seat and asked him to return it.

Fitzgerald slammed the door of the taxi on Mr Lim's leg, and pushed him to the ground.

He subsequently pushed Mr Lim to the ground three more times, causing him to fall.

Mr Lim called the police and told Fitzgerald to remain at the scene. Fitzgerald continued to walk away, with Mr Lim pursuing him. Mr Lim tugged at the American's shirt to prevent him from leaving.

At the Promenade area, Fitzgerald turned around and punched Mr Lim on the face. When the cabby fell, his mobile phone and walkie-talkie also dropped. Fitzgerald picked up the walkie-talkie and threw it into Marina Bay.

Mr Lim continued to follow Fitzgerald. While they were near OUE Tower, Fitzgerald pushed Mr Lim into a water fountain.

Mr Lim suffered bruises on the face and was given five days of medical leave.

In his oral judgment, District Judge Low Wee Ping found that Fitzgerald's attacks on Mr Lim were sustained and repeated. He agreed with the prosecution that it was "an almost one-sided assault", and that Fitzgerald was the aggressor.

The judge agreed with the defence that Fitzgerald's actions were not pre-meditated. The accused, who was drunk, had acted on impulse each time.

The maximum punishment for causing hurt is two years' jail and a $5,000 fine; and for mischief, one year's jail and a fine.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.