Police want tougher charge for Navy sailor in wrong-way crashes
By CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 6, 2016
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A 21-year-old Navy sailor could face up to 15 years in jail for crashing into two cars, injuring two people, while driving the wrong way on an Okinawa highway.
Aimee Mejia, a Navy petty officer second class assigned to Navy Munitions Command at Kadena Air Base, originally was charged with suspicion of drunken driving after a Breathalyzer test put her blood-alcohol content at 0.18 — six times the legal limit in Japan.
Okinawa police on Monday referred the case — which contributed to the Navy announcing that sailors in Japan would be barred from non-essential off-base activities and banned from drinking alcohol until further notice — to the Naha prosecutor’s office, recommending a charge of dangerous driving resulting in injuries. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years.
Mejia was traveling southbound in the northbound lane of Highway 58, a main artery on Okinawa’s west coast, at about 11:40 p.m. Saturday near Kadena Gate 4, police said. Her car crashed into an oncoming vehicle, injuring a 35-year-old woman in the chest. Mejia’s car then struck another car, bruising the arm of a 30-year-old man, police said.
Protests already have been held over the recent arrests of a civilian U.S. base worker in connection with the slaying of an Okinawa woman and a U.S. sailor for the rape of a Japanese tourist. Those separate incidents led to tightened liberty restrictions May 27 on Okinawa, including a ban on off-base drinking, and a call for a monthlong period of mourning by U.S. servicemembers on the island.