Marines sentenced for mugging of Okinawa man
NAHA, Okinawa — Two Marines found guilty of mugging a 20-year-old Okinawan man in Ginowan last October were sentenced Tuesday in Naha District Court.
Cpl. Paul E. Mundell, 22, got 3½ years of hard labor in prison for assaulting the man from behind, then stealing a wallet with 4,000 yen (about $36). His friend, Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Major, 24, received a sentence of two years in prison, suspended for three years, for taking part in the assault.
Both Marines, assigned to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing at Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, had pleaded guilty to the crime.
The incident took place Oct. 23 at about 5:55 a.m. following a long night of drinking, according to testimony at previous hearings. Major testified he was out looking for a fight that morning and picked on the man they saw in a supermarket in the Oyama district of Ginowan, near the base.
He admitted punching the man in the face after Mundell grabbed him from behind.
However, he said, he did not know Mundell had taken the man’s wallet until after they caught a cab to an Okinawa City bar and Mundell gave him 2,000 yen.
During a hearing in February, Mundell told the court he took the man’s wallet as an afterthought.
“All I remember was that I had his wallet in my hand,” Mundell said. “And I don’t know why I did it — to this day.”
Prosecutor Yojiro Sasaki had argued the men planned the attack in order to get enough money to continue a drinking spree after spending all their cash in an Oyama bar. He sought eight-year prison sentences for each.
Mundell’s attorney argued that the attack could not have been premeditated because Mundell had passed out for a while in the supermarket’s bathroom.
The two Marines have been held in the Naha Detention Center since their Nov. 25 indictment.
Chief Judge Nobuyuki Yokota said there was no doubt both Marines were responsible for the attack.
“While Mundell grabbed the Japanese man from behind, Major punched him in the face for several times,” Yokota said. “Even after knocking the victim down to the ground, Major continued assaulting the man.”
Yokota said Mundell’s part in the incident was more serious because he robbed the victim. He said the two Marines conspired to attack the young man but not to rob him.
“The robbery was committed by Mundell alone,” he said.
Yokota said the evidence showed Mundell, Major and another Marine, who was with them but not charged, started drinking beer at their barracks room on Oct. 22 to celebrate completing training at a range. At about 11:40 p.m., they went to a pool hall near the air station, where they stayed until 5 a.m. The trio then stopped by a nearby 24-hour supermarket.
“In the store, they saw the victim, who left after buying a boxed meal,” the judge said in his explanation for finding the two men guilty. “After they left the store, they looked for the victim and followed him for 15 minutes after spotting him again on a street.”
Then, they attacked.
“Using the money they stole, they hailed a taxi to go to Okinawa City, only to find that the bar they were planning to go [to] was closed,” Yokota said. “They then spent some more of the money on boxed meals, which they ate in a taxi on their way back to the air station.”
Mundell and Major were apprehended by military police immediately after they arrived at the air station’s main gate. They were restricted to the base until their indictment.
Yokota dismissed a defense argument claiming the two Marines suffered from “diminished capacity” because of alcohol abuse.
“Even the third Marine, who was intoxicated the most, was able to walk straight without stumbling,” Yokota said, adding, “The nature of this crime was very vicious and persistent. The victim experienced needless horror, and he wishes severe punishment.”
Yokota said he decided on less punishment than requested by the prosecution because the two Marines showed remorse and each paid 100,000 yen (about $935) to the victim.
The Marine Corps has taken no disciplinary action yet against either Marine. Marines sentenced to a foreign prison often can face discharge proceedings when released.
The sentence appeared to stun both Marines. As Mundell, who appeared to be struggling to keep back tears, was led from the courtroom in handcuffs, flanked by two guards, Major watched silently, a puzzled look on his face, before leaving with other Marines who attended the sentencing session.