Misawa sailor gets suspended sentence for role in fatal crash
November 26, 2004
HACHINOHE, Japan — A U.S. sailor from Misawa Naval Air Facility, Japan, has received a suspended 18-month prison term for his role in an April car crash that killed a 69-year-old Japanese man.
Seaman Joshua H. Pierson, who was 19 at the time of the wreck, will stay out of prison if he commits no more crimes in Japan for the next four years, a Hachinohe District Court judge told him in a sentencing hearing Wednesday.
“Please don’t cause this kind of case again,” the judge directed Pierson through a translator.
Pierson was driving a sport utility vehicle early in the evening on April 3 when it collided with a light truck at an intersection in Misawa’s Sonosawa district. Kunizo Kuzumasa was thrown from the truck’s passenger seat and died almost instantly from massive head injuries, base officials and Misawa police have said. The other driver and the victim’s wife, Kazuko Kuzumasa, 67, sustained minor injuries.
Misawa police said at the time that alcohol was not a factor. Neither Pierson nor his passengers were injured in the accident.
Pierson was indicted earlier this year on two criminal charges, according to court officials: Death through negligent conduct in breach of duty of care and bodily injury through negligent conduct in breach of duty of care. On Nov. 16, he pleaded guilty in Hachinohe District Court.
On Wednesday, Pierson told the judge he deeply regretted his involvement in the accident: “As I stated at the trial, I am truly sorry for what I’ve done. I truly wish that I could bring Mr. Kuzumasa back.”
He pledged to “do everything I can do for the family.” If the family asks and “I cannot do it, I will find a way to get it done,” he added.
The maximum sentence Pierson could have received under Japanese law was five years’ imprisonment with forced labor. The judge said an insurance payout to the victim’s family and his belief that Pierson was sincerely sorry for the accident influenced his decision on the suspended sentence.
It was disclosed at Wednesday’s hearing that Pierson’s insurance company would pay the victim’s family 33 million yen (about $330,000) and 800,000 yen (about $8,000). It appears that Pierson had both Japanese Compulsory Insurance and liability insurance, hence the two pots of money; a Navy representative with Pierson at Wednesday’s hearing confirmed that Pierson carried vehicle insurance at the time of the accident but provided no further details. The official also said he was unsure whether Pierson would face any subsequent punishment or administrative action from the Navy at Misawa.
Following the accident, Pierson was restricted to base with suspended driving privileges, base officials said in April. He was not arrested or taken into Japanese custody. Misawa NAF officials declined this week to comment on the case.
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.