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TOKYO — An airman convicted for his role in a series of robberies in Kanagawa Prefecture in spring 2005 appeared before the Tokyo High Court on Thursday, arguing his six-year prison sentence at hard labor handed down in December was “excessive.”

Airman 1st Class Johnny Christopher Warford, who was assigned to a 374th Communications Squadron detachment at Camp Zama, told a three-judge panel two other Americans took advantage of his passive nature to coerce him into committing the acts.

Moses Richard Emmanuel, 22, a Yokota dependent, received seven years of hard labor when he and Warford were tried together in Yokohama District Court in 2005. Emmanuel also was found guilty of assault and marijuana possession.

Both men testified that Mewe-Pira Oritsejolomi Oretemi Alize, 25, of Fujisawa City, an English teacher with no ties to the U.S. military, had been the instigator. Alize is to make an eighth appearance in Yokohama District Court on June 6 as part of his separate trial.

Warford, who has spent more than nine months in Japanese custody, spoke softly and appeared fatigued in court on Thursday. He testified that Alize and Emmanuel seized on his passivity to get him involved in the crime spree. Warford believed he was not in a position to tell either “no,” he added.

“Moses betrayed our relationship by knowing I was a very passive person and used that against me to gain something,” Warford said. “Me and him were close. … I thought he was a friend.”

Warford accused Emmanuel of “taking advantage of an opportunity Alize opened up. … He pretty much dragged me into it.”

The three Americans are accused of a string of crimes occurring from 1 to 3 a.m. May 13, 2005, in Yokohama and Yamato cities. They’re accused of attacking six victims from behind, knocking them to the ground and using an imitation gun and knife to threaten them. Stolen was about 155,000 yen, $62 and a batch of items collectively valued at more than $1,000.

Warford testified Thursday he received nothing and gave his share to Emmanuel.

“I never touched it,” he said. “I told Moses to keep it. I didn’t want money. I didn’t need money. I thought it was wrong also. … He needed the money because he didn’t have a job.”

Warford paid 360,000 yen in “apology money” to the victims, he said.

“I’m prepared to start my life over again,” he told the court. “I’ll make sure nothing like this ever happens again. I’m also very, very sorry for what happened.”

The Tokyo High Court is expected to render a decision on Warford’s appeal on May 16.

Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this story.

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