Court hears appeal in Ginowan mugging case
Stars and Stripes November 18, 2004
NAHA, Okinawa — A Japanese appeals court Tuesday wrapped up hearings for two U.S. Marines sentenced in April for mugging a 20-year-old Japanese man in October 2003.
But Cpl. Paul E. Mundell, 22, and Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Major, 25, both of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, will have to wait until Jan. 20 to see if the court will overturn a sentence the case’s prosecutor called too light.
On April 27, the Naha District Court sentenced Mundell to 3½ years in prison for assaulting a man in a Ginowan shopping district and stealing a wallet with 4,000 yen (about $38). Major was given a two-year prison term, suspended for three years, for helping in the assault. He admitted during his trial that he punched the Japanese man in the face after Mundell grabbed the victim from behind.
Prosecutor Masahisa Yokota had sought eight-year prison sentences for both Marines, arguing that the attack was premeditated and they were equally responsible.
Lower-court judges dismissed his argument, accepting Major’s claim that when he jumped on top of the Japanese man and punched him in the face, he did not know Mundell also had stolen the man’s wallet.
The prosecutor appealed to the Fukuoka High Court Naha Branch on May 11.
The three-judge appellate panel heard the case against Mundell in October; Tuesday’s session was for Major, although both were in the courtroom.
Masanori Higa, Major’s attorney, told the court that Major, Mundell and another Marine, who was with them but not charged, were drunk before the crime occurred. Major admitted to being drunk and said Mundell was too.
According to evidence presented at the original trial, the three Marines began drinking beer at their barracks the evening of Oct. 22, 2003, before going to a pool hall and staying until 5 a.m., shortly before the assault.
Major said the victim was a “brash-looking man” he spotted at a supermarket, where they stopped to use a bathroom. Just the Japanese man’s appearance made Major want to start a fight, the Marine said. “He looked like a trouble guy — and a gangster.”
Higa asked, “Did he look like a man carrying a lot of money?”
“No,” Major replied.
Major said he felt bad about punching the young Japanese man.
“I hurt my family over this. I hurt my career, I hurt the Marine Corps and I offended the Japanese people,” he said. “I made a stupid decision. I am sorry.”
During the original trial, both Marines expressed remorse and each paid 100,000 yen (about $953) in compensation to the victim.
Miyatomi Harushima, the attorney for Mundell, asked Major if Mundell ordered him to attack the man.
“No,” Major replied, denying the prosecutor’s claim that the attack was planned.
Prosecutor Masahisa Yokota asked Major why he punched the man in the face instead of kicking him. “If you wanted to attack him so badly, wouldn’t kicking be more effective than punching him with fists?” Yokota asked.
“I always fight with my hands,” Major said hesitantly as he looked at his outstretched, unclenched hands.
“You jumped on top of him so that the victim could not see Major taking a wallet out of his pants pocket,” Yokota said.