Sailors apologize, await sentence for assault
YOKOHAMA, Japan — Two U.S. sailors apologized in Japanese court Tuesday after prosecutors said they should serve six years in prison for ditching a restaurant bill and assaulting the manager who chased them.
Seaman Brian Matthew Burgess, 21, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Casey Joe Turner, 24, both assigned to the Yokosuka-based USS Kitty Hawk, spoke to the judges after attorneys for both sides gave closing arguments Tuesday in Yokohama District Court.
The sailors are not contesting the charge of “robbery resulting in bodily injury,” which carries a minimum six-year prison sentence.
The charge stems from a Dec. 10 incident in which the men drank more than $200 in alcohol at Seedless Restaurant in Kamakura and tried to leave without paying the full amount, according to the indictment.
When the 41-year-old Seedless manager chased them, the sailors punched and kicked him in the face and inflicted injuries that took a month to heal, the indictment said. The manager caught Burgess and turned him in to police. Turner was caught later and indicted Feb. 8.
Both sailors said in previous testimony that they didn’t remember the assault because they were drunk.
“I’m sorry for what I’ve done,” Burgess said Tuesday at the trial’s conclusion. “It was not my intention to bring any bad feelings on my government and my Navy. I’m sorry.”
“I’m very sorry for anything … everything. I never wanted anything like this to happen,” Turner said. “I feel like I failed as a person. I’m sorry.”
The prosecutor asked for a six-year sentence, saying there was “no justifiable reason for not paying the bill” and that the sailors’ behavior was “inexcusably dangerous.”
U.S. servicemembers are “strong and well-trained” compared to the average Japanese person, the prosecutor said. He also contended that alcohol-related incidents by servicemembers are on the rise and referenced the Jan. 3, 2006, robbery-murder in Yokosuka by a Kitty Hawk sailor who had been drinking for hours, saying that it was the court’s “duty” to make sure punishments for alcohol-related violence are severe.
Defense counsel countered that the sailors had clean records, had not planned the assault, and would face a Navy discharge after being returning to the States according to Navy policy. The manager also accepted a 625,000-yen (about $5,300) civil settlement from Burgess and the owner of Seedless has forgiven the sailors, the attorneys said.
“He couldn’t afford the money and asked his family to send it from home,” said Burgess’ attorney, Midori Tanaka. “He (Burgess) has also promised never to drink again.”
Turner’s attorney, Kazunari Watanabe, added that the sailors were under “stress from active duty” as the Kitty Hawk had just returned to Yokosuka from a two-month deployment hours before the assault.
The men are to be sentenced April 24.