The soldier who ran into North Korea to avoid being brought back to the United States has allegedly been charged with possession of sexual images of a minor.
Private Second Class Travis King was detained by North Korean authorities after he crossed the Military Demarcation Line in July. At the time, King was scheduled to return to Fort Bliss in Texas to face disciplinary action. King had been recently jailed in South Korea after being charged with assault.
King was released in September and taken back to the United States where he is now facing eight counts under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The Associated Press, which reviewed the charging document, reports the child sexual imagery charge has been confirmed by unnamed officials. King has also allegedly been charged with desertion which can carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.
“That allegation dates to July 10, the same day he was released from a South Korean prison where he had served nearly two months on assault charges,” reports AP News.
The charges against King were first reported by Reuters, which said the soldier is accused of “soliciting” a Snapchat user to “knowingly and willingly produce child pornography” in July of 2023.
His mother expressed her love for her son and reiterated her continued concern for his mental health.
“As his mother, I ask that my son be afforded the presumption of innocence,” said Claudine Gates in a statement, per ABC News. “The man I raised, the man I dropped off at boot camp, the man who spent the holidays with me before deploying did not drink.”
“A mother knows her son, and I believe something happened to mine while he was deployed,” she continued. “The Army promised to investigate what happened at Camp Humphries, and I await the results.”
Gates has voiced concern about King’s mental state after news broke that he had fled to North Korea. She said in an interview that her son had become less communicative in the time leading up to his surprise sprint.
Roughly one month after taking King into custody, North Korean officials told state media that the solider reportedly “harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army.”
“He also expressed his willingness to seek refuge in the DPRK or a third country, saying that he was disillusioned at the unequal American society,” according to the report.
Gates has cast doubt on the statement although she said she was “kind of told that he said a little something like that to his uncles.”
“My son, he was proud to be American. He’s not even a racist type of person. That’s why I can’t see him saying that,” said King’s mother.
After being released from North Korea on Sept. 28, King was taken to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio. He reportedly underwent medical exams, including psychological assessments, and a debriefing.
King enlisted in the Army in 2021 and was stationed in South Korea as a cavalry scout.