Zushi, a popular beach near Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, is pictured on March 22, 2024.

Zushi, a popular beach near Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, is pictured on March 22, 2024. (Akifumi Ishikawa/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOSUKA, Japan — The U.S. sailor accused of slamming into and injuring a group of Japanese people in 2022 was heavily intoxicated and suffering from side effects of a preexisting brain injury, his wife testified Thursday.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Krieger sat stoically in the courtroom of Yokohama District Court’s Yokosuka Branch as Rina Krieger detailed the events of July 9, 2022.

Japanese authorities allege Daniel Krieger, 29, slammed into five people in Zushi, a beach town near Yokosuka that’s popular with locals and U.S. service members alike. He pleaded not guilty March 8 to four counts of bodily injury.

Among the most severe injuries was a 33-year-old man with multiple sprained vertebrae and a 58-year-old woman who suffered a broken upper jaw, broken nasal bone and other facial injuries.

Krieger that day consumed at least 11 alcoholic drinks over the course of several hours, Rina Krieger testified in Japanese. She said her husband struggles with mood swings, physical pain, lapses in memory and difficulty with balance, the result of a 2015 head injury.

Rina Krieger eventually returned home that day, she said, leaving her husband alone at Zushi Beach. She believed him capable of getting home and staying out of trouble, despite his heavy intoxication, she told prosecutors.

“Now I regret leaving him alone,” she testified.

After she left, Daniel Krieger became irate with her and that night left her several voice messages saying they as a couple “were over” and telling her: “You are dead.”

Rina Krieger testified that she interpreted those messages as drunken anger rather than legitimate threats. She also testified that she deleted those messages at her husband’s request.

She admitted lying to police during a voluntary interview several days after the incident and telling them she had been drinking but her husband had not. She told prosecutors she also did this at her husband’s request because it would “look bad.”

Surveillance video played in court showed the couple arriving at Zushi; footage from later in the day showed Daniel Krieger slamming into the group.

“This was not an act of his personality, but an act of his disease,” Krieger’s defense attorney, Takashi Takano, told Stars and Stripes after the trial session.

The brain injury occurred in January 2015 when Krieger attempted to break up a fight between two men, an American person and a Japanese person, Rina Krieger testified. The American attacked him and he was left with a broken skull and brain hemorrhage, she said.

Krieger “was a very normal person” who was kind and loved his family but developed a “mental disorder caused by his head injury as well as his drinking problem,” he said.

The next trial session is scheduled for May 13. A psychiatrist who examined Krieger will testify sometime in June, Takano said.

“We are confident that our defense will prevail,” he said.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.
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Alex Wilson covers the U.S. Navy and other services from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., he holds a journalism degree from the University of North Florida. He previously covered crime and the military in Key West, Fla., and business in Jacksonville, Fla.

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