A court on Friday acquitted former Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae of all 47 charges related to his alleged abuse of judiciary power, including allegations he unfairly influenced politically sensitive trials under ousted former President Park Geun-hye.
The Seoul Central District Court also acquitted two other former Supreme Court justices, Park Byong-dae and Ko Young-han, who were indicted in the same case.
“I express my respect for the court, which ruled clearly on an obvious case,” Yang said as he left the court after the ruling.
Yang, who headed the top court from 2011-17, was accused of having used trials as bargaining chips in dealings with the Park administration to promote his bid to establish a court of appeals.
He was also suspected of having pressed subordinates at the National Court Administration, the top court’s governing body, to devise plans to influence politically sensitive trials for Park, including a compensation suit pursued by victims of Japan’s wartime forced labor.
Prosecutors had demanded prison terms of seven years for Yang, five years for Park and four years for Ko.
The court said most of the charges against some of Yang’s subordinates, including those of abuse of power, could not be proven, and even if they were found partially guilty, the evidence submitted by the prosecution was insufficient to prove Yang colluded with them.
The former chief justice was indicted under arrest in February 2019 over his suspected role in the power abuse scandal. He was released on bail in July that year following 179 days of detention.
The sentencing hearing lasted an unusually long 4 1/2 hours, due to the vast number of charges involved, and was even adjourned for a 10-minute break.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office said it plans to thoroughly study the details of the ruling before deciding whether to appeal.
Yang was the first chief justice ever to have been arrested as a criminal suspect. (Yonhap)