Civilian gets suspended sentence in accidental death of Japanese man
YOKOSUKA, Japan — A U.S. Navy civilian employee was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison — suspended for five years — for causing the death of a Japanese man outside of a Yokosuka bar.
Judge Kazuyo Inomata said Robert Nolan pushed an intoxicated Katsumi Nakagawa, 70, outside of Live Bar Buzz on Nov. 2, after Nakagawa was rowdy and refused to leave.
Following the push, Nakagawa tripped on a step and fell on the pavement.
He died of head injuries four days later at a Yokosuka hospital.
“Assault by the defendant led to the victim’s death and the result of the crime is extremely serious,” Inomata said at the Yokohama District Court in Yokosuka.
Nolan, 55, is a GS-14 and human resources director for Commander, Naval Forces Japan.
Inomata said that although Nakagawa did not quiet down when asked but instead punched and grabbed Nolan, it did not justify Nolan’s actions.
However, Inomata said the sentence was suspended since the assault was not planned and Nakagawa initiated the incident.
Inomata, who said Nolan is a part owner at the bar, should not have left Nakagawa outside even though it was hard to foresee his death.
The Navy is investigating the circumstances of Nolan’s alleged employment at an establishment that served alcohol, CNFJ spokesman Jon Nylander said Thursday.
It is a violation of U.S. Forces Japan directives to engage in commercial activity or private employment if it is a bar or establishment that features the sale or service of alcoholic beverages to the Japanese public.
“The Navy decision concerning any possible administrative actions are dependent upon and must await the announcement of the final judgment of the case by the Japanese courts,” Nylander said.
Nolan and the prosecutors have 14 days to appeal the decision to the higher court.
Nolan had pleaded guilty to a charge of bodily injury resulting in death but disputed the prosecutor’s allegation that he “strongly pushed” Nakagawa.
His defense council, Midori Tanaka, argued that Nolan was trying to leave the bar to avoid Nakagawa.
Tanaka said Nolan takes a blood-thinning drug for a medical condition and was trying to avoid a situation where he could be cut.
Based on witnesses’ testimonies, Inomata ruled Nolan did not simply try to leave but instead removed Nakagawa from the bar, although he did not push Nakagawa hard.
Stars and Stripes reporter Chris Fowler contributed to this report.