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YOKOHAMA, Japan — A taxi driver testified Thursday he is confident that the USS Blue Ridge sailor on trial punched him.

Iwao Tabata, 60, was called as a witness during Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Paul Booker’s second hearing at Yokohama District Court.

Booker, 23, is accused of punching Tabata in the face on Sept. 17 at the Yokohama train station at 6:20 a.m., after he and others left the cab without paying the 1,750-yen fare (about $15). Tabata’s nose and dentures were broken; his nose took about a month to heal.

Tabata told the court he chased after three Blue Ridge sailors and a Japanese woman when they left the cab without paying. He said he stood in front of one sailor and demanded payment.

While Tabata was confronting him, Booker “suddenly approached me and punched me,” Tabata said.

“He was one of the customers in my taxi and I saw his face the moment I was punched,” Tabata said. He said he also saw Booker’s face several times while he demanded payment.

“I’m mad at him,” Tabata said. “I call for the court to punish him strictly.”

Booker’s attorney Kazunari Watanabe pointed out that Tabata may have been confused as he did not notice one sailor had returned to pay the fare while he was confronting another sailor.

Booker is to testify in the next hearing scheduled on May 24, which begins at 11 a.m. Because Booker left the scene before police arrived, he was not placed in Japanese custody.

He is restricted to Yokosuka Naval Base, according to Watanabe.

Japanese police were led to Booker by investigating accounts given by Tabata, witnesses and sailors, the police spokesman said. Booker is the only sailor indicted in the incident.

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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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