American blamed in Japanese man's death apologizes in court
July 7, 2007
YOKOSUKA, Japan — A choked-up Robert Nolan, testifying Thursday in court for allegedly causing the death of a Japanese man outside a bar, said he “never intended to harm Katsumi Nakagawa in any way.”
Nolan, a U.S. government civilian, is on trial in Yokohama District Court in Yokosuka on a charge of bodily injury resulting in death.
The charge stems from a Nov. 2 incident in which Nakagawa, 70, died of head injuries after falling to the pavement a few blocks from Yokosuka Naval Base at Live Bar Buzz.
Nolan is a GS-14 and human resources director for Commander, Naval Forces Japan.
In the last day of the trial phase, prosecutors Thursday reiterated that Nolan, 55, “strongly pushed” Nakagawa. They asked that he be sentenced to six years in prison with forced labor.
Defense Attorney Midori Tanaka asked for a suspended sentence — if the court finds him guilty. She said her client has no criminal record and there is a “strong possibility” that Nolan would lose his job with the Navy.
The court is to deliver a verdict Sept. 20.
Nolan testified earlier that the incident was largely one of self-defense.
He said he wanted to leave the bar because Nakagawa was acting rowdy and he was afraid something would happen in which he would get a cut. He said he takes blood-thinning drug for a medical condition.
As he was leaving, Nolan said, Nakagawa was between him and the door when Nakagawa attacked him without provocation.
Nolan said he merely “let go” of the man, who then fell.
“Please understand that all my actions came from the inability of my blood to clot and out of fear for my own life,” Nolan told the court Thursday.
Prosecutors characterized Nolan’s testimony as “irrational” and said the place where Nakagawa was found on the sidewalk was inconsistent with falling.
They also said Nolan was changing earlier statements to police that he “pushed the man away from him.”
Nolan testified in May that he wasn’t thinking clearly when he signed the prosecutor’s statement that used the word “pushed,” he said.
Prosecutors said Nakagawa’s family, which has asked for “severe punishment,” was offended that Nolan did not try to contact them to apologize until months after the incident.
Nolan apologized to the family Thursday and said he tried to contact them through the police immediately afterward. He also apologized to the court, the Japanese people, the U.S. Navy and “all other individuals affected by this tragedy.”
“I have and I still do accept responsibility for my actions,” Nolan said.