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North Korea Sentenced a US College Kid to 15 Years Hard Labor for Stealing a Propaganda Poster

If the Communist government's plan goes through, Otto Warmbier won't be back on US soil until he's at least 36.

by Helen Donahue
Mar 16 2016, 4:00pm

​A mural of Kim Il-sung outside a North Korean hotel. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Read: We Asked an Expert if the World Needs to Worry About North Korea's H-Bomb Claims

In an hour-long trial Wednesday, North Korea's highest court sentenced a college student from the University of Virginia to 15 years hard labor for trying to steal a propaganda poster from his Pyongyang hotel, as the Associated Press reports.

The defendant, 21-year-old Otto Warmbier, apparently went over to North Korea as part of a tour group, and he was detained on January 2 while boarding his flight home to the states. When North Korean officials searched him, they allegedly found a propaganda poster torn from his hotel room wall.

North Korean officials reportedly believe a shady university group and the CIA encouraged Warmbier to steal the poster from the hotel. He, on the other hand, maintains he jacked the propaganda poster for a church member back home in Ohio, who promised to trade him a $10,000 used car for the souvenir.

As the New York Times reports, Warmbier confessed and pleaded for his release February—an apology that has to be taken with a grain of salt given past claims of coerced confessions in North Korea. But if the sentencing goes through, the guy won't be back on US soil until he's at least 36.

"I made the worst mistake of my life," Warmbier said late last month.