Drunk driver in accident that killed Camp Hansen Marine gets suspended sentence
August 19, 2004
OKINAWA CITY — A Naha District Court judge Monday sentenced a Japanese driver to a suspended sentence for fatally striking a 19-year-old Camp Hansen Marine May 23 in Gushikawa.
Tatsuya Yohen, 33, of Ishikawa, was convicted of causing a fatal accident while driving under the influence of alcohol. Judge Kyoichi Ida ordered him imprisoned for 34 months, then suspended the sentence for five years and suspended Yohen’s license to drive.
Lance Cpl. Antonio P. Rodriquez of Pawtucket, R.I., assigned to the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, was struck on Highway 75 in the Akamichi district of Gushikawa at 3:55 a.m., just after he exited a taxi and started crossing the highway.
The judge said Yohen’s car then swerved onto an oncoming lane and collided with another taxi. Rodriquez was taken to nearby Chubu Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5:41 a.m. from massive head injuries.
The cab driver and a passenger in Yohen’s car were treated for minor injuries.
In explaining his sentence, Judge Ida said Yohen was speeding and a Breathalyzer test showed he was drunk at the time of the accident.
“There is no extenuating reason for the defendant, who failed to fulfill the most basic responsibilities as a vehicle driver,” Ida said. “The nature of the crime is vicious.”
He pointed out that Yohen was fined in August 2002 for driving under the influence of alcohol and that the May 23 incident was his second such offense.
“The defendant’s lack in law-abiding spirit robbed one precious life,” he said.
“The victim, Antonio Rodriquez, was a young, hopeful member of [the] U.S. Marine Corps. We can only imagine the sorrow and anger of his parents, who wished for a strict punishment.”
Ida said mitigating factors in suspending the sentence were the deep remorse Yohen expressed and the fact Rodriquez “exited the taxi from the right-hand-side door, which is unusual, and was crossing the highway where there is no crosswalk.”
Taking “all these circumstances into consideration, the court decided to suspend the sentence,” the judge said.