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NAHA, Okinawa — A U.S. Army soldier found guilty of robbing a cab driver of about $55 in May was given a prison sentence Tuesday in Naha District Court.

Pvt. James Joiner Jr. 20, formerly of Camp Red Cloud, South Korea, had pleaded guilty to attacking Sakae Kuba, 56, in Okinawa City and was sentenced to 2½ years in prison with forced labor. No part of the sentence was suspended.

Joiner is considering filing an appeal, according to his attorney.

Judge Naoyuki Fukushima said Joiner grabbed the driver from behind as he exited his taxi at about 3:35 a.m. May 11 in Okinawa City’s Uechi district. Joiner fled with 5,000 yen (about $45) and $10 in U.S. currency, the judge said.

Fukushima said Joiner planned the robbery to get money to continue his drinking spree, thinking he would not be caught because he was slated to return to the United States later that day.

In a previous hearing, the prosecutor 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 short stopover at Kadena, his airplane took off but soon returned to the air base after experiencing mechanical problems, the prosecutor said.

The victim feared for his life when 6-foot-3 Joiner grabbed him by the neck, Fukushima said. “It was a very self-centered and vicious crime,” Fukushima said as he read out the decision. “It is only natural for the victim to want his assailant be punished severely.”

“On the other hand,” Fukushima said, Joiner “admitted his guilt and deeply regretted what he had done.” Joiner is young and has no previous criminal record, the judge added.

“Even after taking these extenuating circumstances into consideration, this court concluded that the offense is punishable by serving time in prison,” he said.

Joiner, wearing a white shirt and blue jeans, appeared nervous before taking the stand to hear the sentence.

In the previous session, he expressed remorse for what he had done, telling the court that he would not have robbed a man had he not been drinking.

Outside the court, Joiner’s attorney, Masanori Higa, called the sentence “totally unexpected and too harsh.” Joiner has 14 days to file an appeal, he said.

According to an indictment, Joiner currently is assigned to the Army’s 505th Quartermaster Battalion on Okinawa. The Army’s plans for Joiner could not immediately be determined Tuesday afternoon. As of Tuesday, Joiner was in Japanese custody.


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