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Okinawa-based Marine indicted in fatal crash that killed a Japanese national

This image shows the interior of an Isuzu Elf driven by Lance Cpl. Nicholas James-McLean, 21, who has been charged in the Nov. 21, 2017, crash that killed a Japanese national on Okinawa.

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By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND HANA KUSUMOTO | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 12, 2017

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — An Okinawa-based Marine has been indicted on charges related to a Nov. 19 crash that killed a 61-year-old Japanese national and led to alcohol and liberty restrictions affecting all U.S. servicemembers in Japan.

Lance Cpl. Nicholas James-McLean, 21, was indicted Monday on negligent driving causing death and driving under the influence of alcohol charges, a spokesman from the Naha District Public Prosecutors Office told Stars and Stripes.

The spokesman would not provide further details of the indictment or say when the Marine is scheduled to stand trial.

James-McLean could see up to seven years in prison with hard labor on the negligent driving causing death charge and up to three years with hard labor for driving under the influence of alcohol. He also faces substantial fines.

The crash occurred at a Naha intersection at about 5:30 a.m., when a U.S. government-owned Isuzu Elf driven by James-McLean collided head-on with the minitruck of 61-year-old Hidemasa Taira, police said. Taira died at a hospital from chest wounds and bleeding.

James-McLean, who was off duty at the time of the incident, reportedly had a blood-alcohol level that was three times Japan’s legal limit of 0.03 percent when tested by police after the crash.

All 50 U.S. states have set 0.08 as the legal limit for driving under the influence or driving while impaired.

Witnesses told police that Taira had the right of way and that James-McLean — who suffered only minor injuries in the crash — may have gone through a red light.

Marine officials are investigating the incident.

News of Taira’s death spurred a wave of anti-American sentiment on the small island prefecture already experiencing a potent anti-base protest movement. In response, U.S. Forces Japan banned the purchase and consumption of alcohol for the approximately 50,000 U.S. troops deployed across Japan, imposed a strict curfew and canceled all liberty on Okinawa.

The ban was relaxed on Nov. 30, allowing U.S. troops to once again purchase alcoholic beverages on base and drink them in their on- or off-base homes.

A midnight to 5 a.m. curfew for Japan-based servicemembers of all ranks is still in force. Under normal circumstances, USFJ’s Japan-wide curfew applies only to lower enlisted servicemembers and runs from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

burke.matt@stripes.com
kusumoto.hana@stripes.com

 

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