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Ex-Misawa jiujitsu instructor sentenced to 2.5 years for assault on airman

Rodrigo Gomez teaches jiujitsu at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Feb. 17, 2016.

JORDYN FETTER/U.S. AIR FORCE

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: July 11, 2019

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A jujitsu instructor has been sentenced to 2½ years in prison for punching and stomping on the head of a U.S. airman at Misawa Air Base in Japan.

Rodrigo Gomez, 44, was convicted of attempted voluntary manslaughter, assault and other charges in April. U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. sentenced him in Little Rock on Wednesday.

"You're lucky you're not facing life for killing someone on an air base," Moody told Gomez.

Prosecutors say Gomez was drunk when the fight unfolded on Dec. 31, 2016 at Cafe Mokuteki, a popular eatery at the home of the 35th Fighter Wing in northern Japan. Gomez and his son, Miguel Gomez, attacked Souleyman Dia. The son held Dia in a leg lock and Gomez repeatedly punched the airman in the face and stomped on his head.

Moody sentenced Miguel Gomez, 21, to four years of probation for his guilty plea to an assault charge.

In a victim impact statement, Dia said he suffered traumatic brain injury as a result of the attack, which also left him with migraines, memory loss, confusion and cognitive issues that have cost him his job, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Gomez's attorney argued for a probationary sentence and said his behavior was triggered by seeing the group of airmen because he had recently seen another airman who was convicted of sending inappropriate images to one of his daughters. She also said Gomez was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after being robbed at gunpoint in Little Rock.

"I am so sorry for what happened to Dia, to the other airmen and most of all, to my family," Gomez said. "I know we're here because of me. ... Whatever the punishment, I will accept anything, sir, because it was my action that caused everything."

Gomez is married to an Air Force major, and the couple was previously based at the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville, Arkansas. He has since lived in Colorado with his wife and four children.

Moody ordered Gomez to participate in anger management counseling while in prison.

"I don't think drinking is your problem. I think anger is," he noted.

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