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NAHA, Okinawa — A 20-year-old U.S. Army soldier from South Korea pleaded guilty Friday in Naha District Court to robbing a cab driver of about $55.

Pvt. James Joiner Jr. of Camp Red Cloud, Uijongbu, South Korea, said he regretted his actions.

“Had I not been drinking, I would never have done that,” he told the court.

Joiner was charged with robbing Sakae Kuba, 56, at 3:35 a.m. May 11 in Okinawa City. He hailed Kuba’s taxi on Gate Two Street near Kadena Air Base to go to the Uechi bar district. As Joiner left the taxi, police said, he grabbed the driver from behind and fled with 5,000 yen (about $45) and $10 in U.S. currency.

Kuba was not injured.

Naha District Public Prosecutor Masahisa Yokota argued Friday that Joiner should be sentenced to five years in prison. Yokota said the soldier plotted the robbery to get money to continue his drinking spree.

The prosecutor argued that when Joiner — 6-foot-3 and about 225 pounds — grabbed Kuba, “the victim described the terror by saying that he had thought immediately that his attacker could easily break his neck.”

Yokota said Joiner was flying from South Korea to visit his home in Louisiana before reporting to his new duty station at Fort Hood, Texas. After a stopover at Kadena, he was headed for the States but his airplane returned after experiencing mechanical problems.

He checked into Kadena’s Shogun Inn and then went to town to drink, Yokota said. After robbing the cab driver, Joiner went to a pool bar, where he threw three 1,000-yen bills he took from the driver into a bathroom wastebasket, Yokota said.

He was later identified and arrested at about 5 a.m.

“Since he was leaving for the United States in the morning, he thought that he would get by without getting caught,” the prosecutor said.

Joiner showed remorse while answering questions by the prosecutor, Judge Naoyuki Fukushima and defense attorney Masanori Higa.

“If you had not consumed alcohol that day, you wouldn’t have committed the crime, would you?” asked Higa.

With his head down, Joiner agreed. “I was raised better than that,” he said. “I still can’t believe what I have done.”

Higa asked the court to be lenient on his client.

“He is only 20 years old, a hopeful young man,” he said.

Joiner remains in the Naha Detention Center. Sentencing is set for Aug. 2.

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