Defendants in Okinawa trial dispute who tried to save victim’s life
July 7, 2007
NAHA, Okinawa — In an unexpected twist Thursday, Darian Preston Daniels claimed he — not his co-defendant — was the one who tried to save Bryant White’s life the night his throat was slit during a brutal mugging.
Taking the stand for two hours of cross-examination by his co-defendant’s attorney, Daniels claimed he told White to play dead after Marine Sgt. Michael Avinger cut his throat.
Both men are charged with causing serious bodily injury during a robbery in the Oct. 25 incident in a remote area of Hamahiga Island. White, 23, a former airman, testified at an earlier hearing that both lured him to the island with the intent to rob him and that Avinger cut him when he claimed he didn’t have any money.
Both defendants admit to being at the scene where White was sliced, but have different stories.
Avinger claims he believed White and Daniels were driving to the island to fight over a dispute concerning marijuana found in their workplace a week before. The three had worked for a furniture store in Uruma.
He said he pressed his knife to White’s throat in an attempt to scare him and then cut him when it appeared Daniels, a Navy spouse, was going to stab White to death.
Avinger said the cut was meant to be a flesh wound, but it went too deep. White has a 7-inch scar across his throat. He was bleeding profusely but managed to stumble to a home for help after Daniels and Avinger fled.
On Thursday, Daniels said he went to the island that night to “smoke some wood, that is marijuana,” and that he was the one who saved White’s life.
After Avinger cut the victim, Daniels said Avinger told him to search White’s pockets for money and then walked back to his car.
“I guess he went to clean his knife,” Daniels said. He told White to play dead.
“So I knelt over Mr. White,” he said. “I told him to close his eyes. I told him to stop moving his hands. I told him not to move. That’s when Mr. Avinger came back. I told him White didn’t have any money and he believed me.”
As they drove from the crime scene, two police cars passed with lights flashing and sirens blaring. They pulled to the side of the road.
Daniels said he reached in his glove box to get a cigarette to calm his nerves and found that White had left his wallet and passport there. He cursed.
“[Avinger] heard me and he said, ‘What?’ And I held up the wallet and passport and Avinger said, ‘Give it here.’ ”
Daniels said he knew then he would probably be arrested.
“Yet you still gave Avinger the wallet,” attorney Yuji Fujita said. “Why?”
“This was his crime,” he said, raising his voice. “He drug me into the middle of this. I didn’t want to be in this, so he asked for it and I gave it to him.”
The next court date in the trial is set for July 19.