YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A USS Kitty Hawk sailor was found guilty of several driving violations, but the judge at Yokosuka District Court suspended the sentence Thursday.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Rickey Ray Williams Jr., 20, was given five months’ imprisonment with hard labor, but the sentence will be suspended for three years.

Judge Takashi Chubachi said Williams, without a driver’s license, drove his boss’s car to Club Geodana in the Honch district around midnight Jan. 14. He drank five bottles of beer then started driving to another club with a friend.

On one of Yokosuka’s main streets, Williams “forcefully” changed lanes without looking and crashed into Yuichi Washikita’s car. Fearing he would get in trouble, Williams fled the scene, Chubachi said.

Washikita blocked Williams’ car and called the police. Prosecutors later charged Williams with driving under the influence, driving without a license and hit-and-run.

Chubachi called the crime “vicious” and said accidents caused under the influence of alcohol have been strongly criticized in Japan.

But Williams’ actions called for suspending the sentence, Chubachi said. The judge listed off Williams’ 167,001 yen (about $1,417) payment to the victim for damages, a $200 payment to his boss for junking the car, his remorse, his promise not to drive in Japan again and the fact that Williams will be severely punished by the Navy as reasons for “one-time” leniency.

Chubachi, who warned Williams “not to commit crime in the future,” explained that the sentence would be suspended unless a Japanese court finds Williams guilty of another crime within three years.

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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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