Court suspends prison term for road-rage killer

Court suspends prison term for road-rage killer

A group of young people approaches Suthep Phochanasomboon's car. Suthep then shot one of them dead. (File photos)
A group of young people approaches Suthep Phochanasomboon's car. Suthep then shot one of them dead. (File photos)

A man who was sentenced to a 10-year prison sentence for shooting dead a teenager during a rowdy confrontation in Chon Buri province four years ago will no longer need to serve any jail time after the Supreme Court yesterday decided to reduce it to three years and four months and suspended the term.

Suthep Phochanasomboon, an engineer, 56, shot dead grade 10 student Navadol Puengpai, 17, at Khrok Yai intersection on Ang Sila Road in Muang district of Chon Buri on Feb 4, 2017.

In September 2018, the Chon Buri provincial court found Suthep guilty of the premeditated murder of Navadol and sentenced him to 10 years in prison, fined him 2,000 baht for carrying a gun in public and ordered him to pay 340,000 baht compensation, plus interest at 7.5%.

The Appeal Court upheld the lower court's ruling on Oct 11, 2019.

According to the Appeal Court, a van belonging to Navadol's friends had parked and blocked Suthep's car. Suthep's wife and family were in the car with him, it said. Suthep demanded the van be moved so he could pull out and leave, triggering an argument, it said, adding Navadol was present at the scene.

Suthep honked his car horn and flashed his headlights to hurry the group into moving the van, the court said. At the same time, he began swearing, it added.

Suthep Phochanasomboon

The court said Suthep chased after the van once it moved off and continued to honk repeatedly. It said both vehicles stopped at an intersection, where Navadol and his friends got out and strode over to Suthep's car. Suthep shot Navadol dead, the court said, adding Suthep said he feared for his family.

In May, Suthep was released on bail for 874,000 baht pending his Supreme Court appeal.

The Supreme Court's decision was read out at the Chon Buri Provincial Court on Thursday, in the absence of the defendant and his lawyer.

The Chon Buri provincial court had been due to read out the Supreme Court's decision on May 12 this year, but the defendant and his lawyer failed to show up.

Judges ordered the seizure of Suthep's 874,000 baht bail money and issued a warrant for his arrest.

Unless he was caught first, the Supreme Court's decision was scheduled to be read out in absentia on Thursday.

In the ruling, the Supreme Court reduced the 10-year-jail term to five years, saying he killed Navidol in excessive self-defence.

The prison term was then reduced to one third, or three years and four months, plus the 2,000 baht fine for carrying a weapon in public.

The prison sentence was then suspended for three years and Suthep was put on probation for two years.

The court ordered Suthep to report to probation officers every three months, undergo training in controlling his anger and perform 30 hours of community service.

The Supreme Court said in its ruling the defendant had not served any jail term before. The incident arose from the dead teenager's group parking their vehicle to block the defendant's car, it said.

The incident then escalated and the victim's group was partly to blame, it said.

Suthep's whereabouts were not known, but a lawyer told a TV interviewer he expected the defendant would show up in a few days.

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