Navy spouse on Okinawa maintains he is not guilty in throat cutting
September 27, 2007
NAHA, Okinawa — A Japanese prosecutor on Tuesday demanded a former Marine be sentenced to 10 years at hard labor in a Japanese prison for his involvement in slitting the throat of another American during a robbery last October.
Darian Preston Daniels, 29, a Navy spouse, sat passively in Naha District Court as prosecutor Katsuhiko Iwana, during final arguments, described Daniels as a “lofty, brutal” person who showed no remorse and deserved “strict punishment.”
Daniels is on trial for an incident in which a co-defendant, Marine Sgt. Michael Avinger, 30, is accused of cutting the throat of Bryant White, 23, a former airman and a co-worker at a Uruma furniture company.
In the beginning of the trial, White testified he was lured by the two men to an isolated part of Hamahiga Island on the promise of meeting women. But once there, he said, Avinger grabbed him from behind and Daniels demanded money. When he said he had no money on him, Avinger cut his throat, White said.
The two men allegedly threw White’s body into bushes and drove away. Once they were gone, White stumbled to a nearby house and called for help. He bears a seven-inch scar across his throat.
Daniels and Avinger are being tried separately. Final arguments in Avinger’s case are set for Tuesday.
Daniels claims he had no intent to rob White and was surprised when Avinger grabbed White and cut him. He testified that he believed the knifing was the result of a drug deal gone bad.
Iwana said Daniels confessed to the crime then retracted his statement, claiming it had been made under duress.
“It was a fabricated story made as a desperate attempt to evade prosecution,” Iwana said. “But it is obvious from the testimony that he is guilty.”
Defense attorney Masayuki Akamine argued Avinger was solely responsible for the attack on White and that his client’s confession had been made only after Okinawa police threatened to involve Daniels’ wife as an accessory.
Reading from a prepared statement, Daniels also laid the entire blame for the incident on Avinger. “He put the knife to his throat, and he cut his throat,” Daniels said.
“I am not a criminal,” he told the panel of three judges. “I’m not guilty. Please allow me to go home to my wife and kids.”
Sentencing for Daniels is set for Oct. 30.