YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Robert Burns Nolan pleaded guilty to all of the prosecutor’s findings Thursday but disputed the allegation that he “forcefully” shoved a 70-year-old Japanese man who later died of his injuries.

Nolan, director of Commander, Naval Forces Japan’s human resources office, is charged with “bodily injury resulting in death” in a Nov. 2 incident in which Nolan said he pushed Katsumi Nakagawa outside a bar located a few blocks from Yokosuka Naval Base.

Nakagawa lay bleeding on the sidewalk until a passerby called an ambulance.

He died four days later at a Yokosuka hospital from a brain contusion.

Nolan’s first day of trial Thursday at Yokosuka District Court lasted four hours and included statements from both sides and testimony from a Live Bar Buzz bartender and the victim’s brother.

Nolan was an owner and investor in Live Bar Buzz, where the incident occurred, according to court documents and testimony.

Nolan told the three judges that words like “firmly” and “strongly” didn’t accurately describe how he pushed Nakagawa.

“I didn’t push him strongly, but all the other facts are correct,” Nolan said.

Defense attorney Midori Tanaka maintained that Nolan was not trying to confront Nakagawa, but trying to avoid him because of an illness, she said.

“His (Nolan’s) blood doesn’t coagulate. He feared the victim’s violent actions,” Tanaka said in her opening statement, adding that Nakagawa attacked Nolan.

Bartender Sayuri Ishii described Nakagawa as being a well-known drunk in the area and said he was causing a disturbance that night, but she said she didn’t see him attack Nolan.

Nolan however, weighed 260 pounds at the time, compared to Nakagawa’s 154 pounds, and his height may have obscured her view, she said.

She said she did clearly hear Nolan say: “Here is my bar. Get out!”

Neither Ishii nor Nolan called emergency services after Nakagawa fell on the sidewalk outside the bar because they thought he was just unconscious, they said.

This oversight, said Nakagawa’s younger brother, was unforgivable as a quicker emergency call could have saved Nakagawa’s life, he said.

The family would not accept Nolan’s offer of a 1 million yen (about $8,486) payment, and asked the court to give Nolan the “severest punishment possible.”

Nakagawa’s brother spoke to Nolan in angry English in the courtroom.

“You look down on Japan and Japanese (people),” he said. “I want my brother back, right now.”

Nolan, 54, lives off base with his Japanese wife.

He was released Feb. 20 from Japanese custody on a 3 million yen (about $25,400) bond.

A conviction of bodily injury resulting in death carries a prison term of a minimum of three years and a maximum of 20 years.

The trial is set to continue May 10.

author picture
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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