Singapore Affirms Flogging of American : Southeast Asia: Michael Fay, 18, shows no emotion at sentencing for spray-painting 18 cars. Order that he get six strokes of a cane draws worldwide attention.


A court here Thursday rejected an American teen-ager’s appeal against a sentence of flogging for spray-painting cars, saying he had pursued a “calculated course of criminal conduct.”

Without a trace of emotion, Michael Fay, 18, of Dayton, Ohio, was led from the high court by police to begin serving a four-month jail term in the case, which has attracted worldwide attention because of the flogging.

Marco Chan, Fay’s stepfather, left the court without comment. Fay’s teen-age friends packed the gallery during the appeal, and several began to cry silently as he was led away.


U.S. charge d’affaires Ralph Boyce, who attended the appeal, expressed U.S. regret at the sentence and called on the government to reconsider.

“We continue to believe that caning is an excessive penalty for a youthful, nonviolent offender who pleaded guilty to reparable crimes against private property,” he said.

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs later attacked Boyce for making his criticism in public.

Fay was sentenced on March 3 to receive six strokes of a moistened rattan cane, in addition to four months in jail and a $2,230 fine after pleading guilty to two counts of vandalism, two counts of criminal mischief and one count of possessing stolen property. He admitted to having spray-painted 18 cars.

Fay appealed his caning sentence, asserting that the law did not require such a punishment in cases where the vandalism could be erased or removed. His lawyers argued that, since the spray paint was removed from the damaged cars with turpentine, it was not indelible.

But Chief Justice Yong Pung How dismissed that argument, noting: “These acts of vandalism were committed relentlessly and willfully over a period of 10 days. This amounted to a calculated course of criminal conduct.”


According to a Singapore prison official quoted in the 1970s, caning is usually administered by a prison official trained in martial arts. Those being punished often go into shock after the third stroke of the cane, and scars left by the stick are usually permanent.

British lawyer Michael Sherrard, who flew in from London to present Fay’s case in Singapore’s appeals court, said the Fay family was planning to appeal for executive clemency from Singapore President Ong Teng Cheong.

Boyce said after Thursday’s court session that the embassy understood that the caning will not take place while a clemency appeal is pending.

But a prominent American lawmaker seemed to dash hopes for such an appeal, which would require a political decision.

U.S. Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Me.) met separately Thursday with Lee Kwan Yew, the founding father of modern Singapore who is now a senior minister in the government, and his son, Lee Hsien Loong, the deputy prime minister.

“They’re not about to back down,” Cohen said after the meetings. “They said this is a judicial matter.”


Cohen said he expressed concern that Fay was being singled out for special treatment and that they both “clearly indicated that this is not the case.”

Cohen said he did not believe that the sentence would affect U.S.-Singapore relations.

The case took on political significance here when President Clinton commented on it, calling the caning sentence extreme and asking the government to reconsider.

The Singapore government reacted immediately, asserting the sentence had been handed down to 14 others in similar circumstances, including two foreigners, and adding tartly that Singapore did not want to end up like New York, “where even the police cars are not spared the acts of vandals.”

In another legal case that attracted international attention, a court here on Thursday convicted five men, including two prominent journalists, of violating Singapore’s Official Secrets Act for allowing confidential estimates of trade figures to be published. But the five were fined and not sent to prison.

Journalists had privately expressed concern that the case was designed to muzzle Singapore’s press, which is already fairly tame. The government insisted that the case was not about press freedom but about blocking leaks of government information.

Patrick Daniel, editor of Singapore Business Times, was fined $2,500 for receiving data and passing it on to the newspaper’s readers.