Former Marine sentenced for robbing Okinawa cab driver
OKINAWA CITY — A former Marine was sentenced Wednesday to two years and 10 months in prison at hard labor for a January attack and robbery of an Okinawan cab driver.
Errol Jackson, 23, dressed in a New York Yankees T-shirt and gray sweat pants, stood before Naha Circuit Court Judge Koji Hiratsuka and wiped tears from his eyes as he apologized for the Jan. 12 crime and asked for mercy.
“I’d like to apologize to the victim and his family and the people of Okinawa,” said Jackson, who had pleaded guilty during a previous hearing in the Okinawa City branch of the court to stealing about $65.80 in Japanese coins from the cabbie after grabbing him from behind and punching him in the head.
“I’d like to have a chance to start all over again with my family,” said Jackson, who committed the crime just a month after being discharged from the Marine Corps and serving 14 months in the Camp Hansen brig for larceny and unauthorized absence. He had been escorted to the U.S. under guard but returned to Okinawa to be with his Japanese wife and her three children.
Judge Hiratsuka said Jackson’s apparent remorse had persuaded him to sentence him to a term less than the five years sought by the prosecutor in the case. The judge also noted Jackson wrote an apology to the driver and paid him 300,000 yen, ($2,631), about half of the damages the victim claimed.
“Still, it was a very vicious and dangerous act,” the judge said. “The defendant attacked the driver in a taxi at night in an isolated area. The defendant stands at 6 feet tall and weighs at 242 pounds. The pain and horror the driver had to go through was enormous.”
He said the crime affected the Okinawa community and “the criminal responsibility in this case is very great.”
“This court does not believe that it is appropriate to suspend the sentence,” Hiratsuka said.
According to evidence presented at the trial, Jackson hailed a cab about 3:50 a.m. Jan. 12 in Okinawa City, grabbed the 55-year-old driver from behind and punched him in the head several times. After the driver, Morimasa Taba, managed to escape, Jackson grabbed an aluminum box containing the coins and ran away.
A short time later, police spotted Jackson, questioned him about the robbery and noticed he possessed a large amount of change. Police later found the coin box, more cash and passports belonging to Jackson and his wife near the crime scene.
According to an Okinawa police report, Jackson argued with his wife earlier that night, then committed the crime in hopes his arrest would earn him automatic repatriation to the United States.
The crime was one of three incidents of Americans robbing cab drivers on Okinawa in January.