NAHA — The Naha District Court gave a suspended sentence Friday to a U.S. civilian for killing a 31-year-old Japanese man in a March traffic accident.

Judge Masashi Kurihara sentenced Peter Ellis, 39, a contracted technician at the Marine Corp’s Camp Butler, to three years in prison. However, the judge suspended the sentence for four years pending Ellis commits no other crimes.

The judge said Ellis drove northbound on Highway 58 in Nago about 10:25, March 16, when his vehicle swerved into the oncoming lane, fatally colliding with a car driven by Okiteru Iha of Nago.

Ellis drove the vehicle unattentively because of the alcohol he consumed earlier, Kurihara said, and missed a curve and veered into the wrong lane.

He said Ellis recognized the oncoming car about 160 feet ahead, but when he hit the brakes, it was too late. Iha suffered massive injuries and was pronounced dead an hour later.

Driving under the influence of alcohol and causing an accident was an inexcusable act, the judge said.

“The victim’s life was cut off very short in the horrible accident, and we can only imagine the pain and sorrow of the family who lost the loved one,” he said.

“However, the defendant sincerely admitted his mistake and profoundly regrets what he did,” Kurihara said, explaining the reason that the court suspended the prison term.

He said Ellis paid Iha’s family 800,000 yen (about $6,800) in condolence money, and 30 million yen (about $254,000) through his insurance for compensation.

“A certain amount of payment was made, and the wife and parents of the defendant paid visits to the victim’s family to express their condolences,” Kurihara said.

He said that the victim’s mother accepted their apologies

“Giving consider to all the circumstances, the court suspended the sentence,” the judge said.

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