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Pacific edition, Wednesday, April 25, 2007

NAHA, Okinawa — A soldier from Kadena Air Base was given a suspended sentence Monday for knocking down a Japanese woman and stealing her shoulder bag in January.

Army Pfc. Jonathan Johnson, 20, of Headquarters Company, 1-1 Air Defense Artillery Battalion, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for the Jan. 15 attack in an Okinawa City entertainment district. He had been in Japanese police custody since his arrest the same morning and still faces possible discipline from the Army.

Johnson had pleaded guilty to charges of inflicting an injury during a theft.

According to trial evidence, the soldier accosted a 20-year-old woman as she walked out of a bar on Park Avenue about midnight. He punched her in the face as she stumbled against him, knocking her to the ground.

He then dragged her into an alley, grabbed her $600 designer shoulder bag and ran away. The bag contained about $190 in cash, according to prosecutor Daisuke Tabuchi, who had asked for a sentence of two years in prison at hard labor.

When Okinawa police tracked him down in the same area shortly after the mugging, they found some of the woman’s belongings in his pockets.

In admitting his guilt earlier this month, Johnson apologized and said he did not know why he robbed the woman.

His defense attorney said Johnson was drunk at the time and did not remember the incident.

Judge Hiroyuki Yoshii on Monday called Johnson’s act self-centered and thoughtless. However, he suspended the prison sentence because all the stolen items were returned and compensation was being paid to the victim by Johnson’s father.

According to the judge, the woman has received about $2,000 so far and another $2,350 has been promised.

Yoshii urged the young soldier to learn from his experience.

“What this court strongly hopes is that you will straighten out your life so that you will never put yourself into a situation like this again.”

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