Prosecutor calls for hard labor for second throat-slitting suspect
October 4, 2007
NAHA, Okinawa — Calling Marine Sgt. Michael Avinger’s excuse that he cut another man’s throat to save his life ridiculous, a Japanese prosecutor here Tuesday demanded Avinger be sentenced to 10 years in prison at hard labor.
It’s the identical sentence prosecutor Katsuhiko Iwana called for last week for Avinger’s alleged accomplice, Darian Preston Daniels, also accused in the Oct. 25, 2006, robbery and wounding of an acquaintance.
Iwana said Avinger and Daniels lured Bryant White, 23, a former airman and a co-worker for a Uruma furniture company, to a remote area on Hamahiga Island. There, Avinger cut his throat and Daniels went though his pockets looking for a large amount of money they believed White carried.
Earlier in the trial process, White testified he pretended to be dead and Avinger and Daniels threw his body into some bushes and drove away. Once they were gone, he stumbled to a nearby house and called for help. He bears a seven-inch scar across his throat.
Avinger, 30, and Daniels, 29, a former Marine married to a sailor, were tried separately. Both men blamed the other for the incident.
Daniels claimed he was facilitating a marijuana deal between his two friends and it surprised him when Avinger grabbed White from behind and cut his throat. He signed a statement confessing to the crime as a robbery, but recanted it during the trial, claiming it had been made under duress.
Avinger said he drove to the island, where Daniels was going to confront White about rumors he possessed marijuana. He said he grabbed White from behind and placed a knife to his throat in order to scare him and prevent Daniels from pummeling White. But when Daniels pulled out his own knife, Avinger said he had no choice but to slash White’s throat.
He said he meant to give him a flesh wound that would appear to Daniels to be a fatal wound.
“My intention was to protect him at all costs,” Avinger told the three-judge panel Tuesday. “I did not intend to harm him. In closing, I would like to say that I personally feel I failed to properly protect Mr. White.”
Avinger’s attorney, Yuji Fujita, argued his client was not in need of money at the time of the attack, so had no reason to rob White. He pointed out that his client was a veteran of combat in Iraq and “knew how to use a knife.”
“If there was an intent to kill he could easily have cut deep enough to kill him,” he said.
Iwana, however, said Avinger’s story was “unbelievable, unreasonable and unlikely.”
“This was a deliberate and brutal crime,” he said. “His criminal responsibility is grave and a long term in prison is deserved.”
Avinger will be sentenced Nov. 8. Daniels’ sentencing is set for Oct. 30.