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YOKOHAMA DISTRICT COURT, Japan — Two Americans who worked on Yokosuka Naval Base begged a Japanese court for forgiveness Wednesday for their alleged part in smuggling what authorities say is almost $2 million worth of drugs into Japan.

As the prosecutor asked the Yokohama District Court judge to sentence the pair to eight years each in prison, the two men, Babe Cole and William Jenkins, put their heads in their hands and wept.

“I just want to go back to the United States with my wife as soon as possible, and I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” Jenkins, 28, told the judge.

Cole, 25, said he wanted to “deeply apologize to Japan, Yokosuka and the United States. I’d like to express my apology and full repentance.”

Defense lawyers asked the judge only for “leniency,” saying that they were young men who had had small roles in smuggling a large amount of drugs.

The two, who both worked for the base Morale, Welfare and Recreation department, were arrested in August after a Narita Airport customs inspection found some 50,000 tablets of MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, and other stimulants, as well as some five ounces of speed in powder form. The drugs, in more than a dozen plastic bags, were displayed on a courtroom table.

Police said the drugs were mailed from Canada, bound for the two men’s post office boxes on base. They said the street value of the drugs was up to $1.9 million.

The day after their arrest, a third man, Jonathan Nunez, got a plane out of Japan for the United States. Japanese police said they hoped to extradite Nunez to stand trial for his part in the operation. Nunez, a former USS Vincennes sailor who was administratively separated from the Navy in November 2003, remains elsewhere, officials said.

Attorneys for Cole and Jenkins painted Nunez as the most responsible for the drug smuggling, saying that in comparison to distributing the drugs, their clients’ receipt of the drugs was a smaller offense. Cole and Jenkins did not know the boxes they agreed to receive contained illegal drugs, their attorneys said.

But the prosecutor, according to a translator, argued that their roles may have been small but were “essential.”

Jenkins’ wife, who spoke only on the condition that her first name not be used, said she believed her husband was unaware of what the boxes contained. “They only get $400 or $500. They thought it was probably illegal, but no drugs,” she said. “They thought it was porno or fake bags.”

She sobbed in the courtroom and said her husband was not allowed English-language reading material in the police station jail where he’s been in custody, and that they are not allowed to speak English when she visits.

She said her husband’s lawyer told her that it seemed likely her husband would be sentenced to at least four years. The sentencing is scheduled Nov. 24.

Jenkins, who had worked in the Single Sailor Center, told the judge he agreed to accept the boxes because he needed money to achieve his goal: to return to the United States and rejoin the Navy. “I should have quit,” he said. “But I had money problems. I’m sorry for what I’ve done.”

Cole was employed at a base warehouse at the time of his arrest, according to Mike Chase, base spokesman. Cole remains under the jurisdiction of the status of forces agreement, which governs how servicemembers are handled in Japanese courts, among other things. As such, the Navy provided his attorney, the same Japanese woman who represented a Kitty Hawk sailor convicted in March of negligent driving after his car ran a red light and collided with the car of a Yokosuka man, who died of his injuries.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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