In Okinawa court, American remorseful over fatal DUI wreck
Stars and Stripes June 8, 2003
NAHA, Okinawa — A Japanese prosecutor sought a three-year prison term Friday for a 39-year-old American civilian who fatally struck a 31-year-old Japanese driver in March.
Peter Ellis, a technician for Universal Technologies, a contractor to the Marine Corps’ Camp Butler, was remorseful throughout the hearing.
“For what I have done, there is no forgiveness,” he told the judge.
According to evidence presented by the prosecutor, Ellis was driving his car under the influence of alcohol on March 16 at 10:25 p.m. along Highway 58, northbound through Nago City. He missed a curve and swerved into the oncoming lane, colliding with a car driven by Okiteru Iha of Nago, who suffered massive injuries and was pronounced dead an hour later.
Iha’s mother and brother and Ellis’ wife were in the court audience Wednesday.
Ellis told the judge that even before the accident, he had driven after consuming alcohol — despite his wife’s repeated warnings.
“I haven’t caused any accident, and I thought I could get away with it,” he said, answering a question from prosecutor Tsuyoshi Satake.
Satake said Ellis failed to renew one of two insurance policies on his automobile.
“It is only by serving a prison term that he would learn how dangerous it is to drive under the influence of alcohol and how serious the consequences are,” Satake said.
Meanwhile, Ellis’ defense attorney, Satoshi Kawamitsu, asked the court for a suspended sentence, saying his client fully realized the gravity of his responsibility and that he was truly repentant. Kawamitsu also introduced a statement by the victim’s mother, Mitsuko Iha, who said she did not wish a severe punishment on him.
“All I want is his heartfelt apologies because I know that both families have already suffered enough from the tragic accident,” she said in the statement.
Sentencing is scheduled for June 20.