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NAHA, Okinawa — A 22-year-old Marine pleaded guilty in a Japanese court Monday to stealing a taxi in October, driving it under the influence of alcohol and failing to report the traffic accidents he caused that night.

Lance Cpl. Matthew J. Eckersen, assigned to Headquarters and Service Battalion on Camp Foster, admitted he took the vehicle after discovering the key in the ignition at 6:45 p.m. Oct. 5 in Chatan’s American Village.

During the opening session in Naha District Court, prosecutor Yuki Mizuno said Eckersen drove the taxi southbound on Highway 58, with another Marine in the back seat, sparking a 15-minute car chase.

Eckersen bumped and scraped the sides of the five cars with the taxi at the Isa intersection in Ginowan, including two cars driven by Americans, according to the police report.

When damage rendered the taxi inoperable, Eckersen and the second Marine fled the scene on foot.

Mizuno asked that Eckersen be sentenced to a year in prison at hard labor.

Eckersen’s defense attorney, Satoshi Kawamitsu, asked the court to suspend any sentence and give his client, "who is remorseful and still young," a chance to rehabilitate himself.

"I am deeply sorry," Eckersen said after a deep sigh and a long pause when asked by Kawamitsu about his actions. "I really don’t know why I did it."

Charges were dropped against the other Marine. Eckersen is to be sentenced Dec. 24.


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