NAHA, Okinawa — A three-judge panel ruled Thursday that a prosecutor seeking harsher sentences for two U.S. Marines who admitted to mugging an Okinawa man may question the two in court again, and again may argue for longer sentences.

Facing criminal proceedings in the Fukuoka High Court’s Naha branch are Cpl. Paul E. Mundell, 22, and Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Major, 25, both assigned to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing at Futenma Marine Corps Air Station. They had admitted attacking the 20-year-old man at 5:55 a.m. Oct. 23, following an all-night drinking spree.

During sentencing on April 27, the Naha District Court sentenced Mundell to three and a half years in prison for assaulting the man from behind and stealing a wallet containing 4,000 yen (about $36).

Major was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for three years, for taking part in the attack. The court accepted his claim that he did not know his friend had stolen the victim’s wallet. The judges also accepted the pair’s claim that the assault was a drunken, spur-of-the-moment event.

The prosecution appealed the sentences, arguing that the attack was premeditated and both men were responsible for the assault and theft. Prosecutor Yojiro Sasaki had asked for sentences of eight years in prison for each defendant.

The Naha District Public Prosecutor’s Office filed the appeal May 11.

In court Thursday, Mundell appeared wearing the same blue shirt and beige-colored pants he wore throughout the sessions at the lower court; he has been detained at the Naha Detention Center since his indictment on Nov. 25. Mundell sat on the bench flanked by two guards.

Major, who was released from confinement following the April sentencing, wore a black suit and sat next to one of the guards accompanying Mundell.

During the hearing, Prosecutor Masahisa Yokota asked the court to let him question both Marines. Masanori Higa, attorney for Major, argued that there was no need to examine his client.

“Everything has been examined and there is no need for further questioning him,” Higa said, adding that any inconsistencies in Major’s statements to police and prosecutors had been caused by his extreme drunkenness the morning of the incident.

“His memory was imperfect because of the alcohol he had consumed,” Higa said.

“No matter how hard you may try, there is no way for you to find that the crime was premeditated.”

After a few minutes’ deliberation in a back room, the three-judge panel decided to hear the case and allow the prosecution to examine both defendants at the next hearing, set for Oct. 7.

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