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NAHA, Okinawa — Monday was the first day of school for students and teachers throughout the Pacific, but Kubasaki High School on Camp Foster, Okinawa, was missing one social studies teacher.

David Jones, 47, instead appeared in Naha General District Court, where he was sentenced to 10 months at hard labor in a Japanese prison — suspended for three years — for possession of marijuana.

Jones was arrested after a May 11 search of his off-base home in Chatan by agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service turned up a marijuana plant and pipes containing traces of pot. They turned the case over to Japanese narcotics control officers the next day.

Jones, who has been free on bond, pleaded guilty to the charge during the afternoon court proceedings. He faced up to seven years in prison.

According to evidence presented by the prosecution, Jones admitted cultivating marijuana in the backyard garden of his home, located near Kadena Air Base. He said he suffered from chronic back pain from a night-parachute accident when he was in the Army in 1983, and the pain progressed so badly that he sought alternative ways to ease the pain.

In a statement to police, he said he found marijuana seeds in a package of bird seed in 2004 and decided to cultivate his own marijuana.

During the trial, Jones rose unsteadily from a bench in front of the defense table and limped slowly to the witness stand. He told the court that he first smoked marijuana to ease his back pain when he was in Alaska, where medicinal use of the drug is allowed.

“I have pain all the time,” he said, explaining that he has a spinal-cord injury that delivers unceasing pain to his legs, back and neck. “Did it help?” Judge Hiroyuki Yoshii asked.

“It did not stop the pain, but it helped me forget about it,” Jones answered. Catherine Jones, his wife of 19 years and also a teacher, testified that she had no knowledge her husband was growing pot in the back yard. She promised to keep a watch on him to make sure he does not use marijuana.

“So how do you feel about smoking marijuana,” the judge asked through an interpreter. “Do you think it is something good and acceptable or something bad, or it is not a great deal to you?”

“For me, I don’t do this,” she said. “I generally have an open mind. But in Japan, I follow the law.” She said her husband’s arrest devastated the family. The couple have three daughters, one with autism, she said. “It will be necessary for my husband to stay at home to educate her,” she said.

The Japanese charge is not the last of Jones’ legal problems. According to NCIS, an investigation into allegations made by several former female students — including at least one improper sexually explicit e-mail contact with one of the girls — remains open.

And in July, the Marines’ base inspector on Camp Foster banned Jones from all Marine bases in Japan for 20 years, a ruling Jones said he is appealing.

Jones taught for the Department of Defense Dependents Schools for six years and has been on administrative leave since his arrest. He told the court Monday he expected to be fired from his teaching position.

During sentencing, Yoshii lectured Jones on the meaning of his ruling.

“A suspended sentence does not mean you are innocent,” Yoshii said. “If you commit another crime and are found guilty, you will not get a suspended sentence for the offense. In addition to that, the suspended sentence that you received today will be revoked, and you will be serving the 10-month prison term as well.

“Your future depends on how you live the next three years. Please keep in mind that starting today, how well you live is tested every day and each moment.”

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