Suspects admit 'passive' roles in Yokohama-area robberies
YOKOHAMA, Japan — An airman assigned to Camp Zama and the civilian husband of a Yokota Air Base servicemember admitted to ‘passive’ roles in a series of Yokohama-area robberies last spring but implicated another American as the instigator, testifying he’s an unsavory character who intimidated them into taking part.
Moses Richard Emmanuel, 22, a Yokota dependent, and Airman 1st Class Johnny Christopher Warford, 22, with the 374th Communications Squadron detachment at Zama, testified Tuesday during a second appearance in Yokohama District Court. Mewe-Pira Oritsejolomi Oretemi Alize, 25, of Fujisawa City, an English teacher with no ties to the U.S. military, earlier was granted a request to be tried separately. The three men are charged with robbery, robbery resulting in bodily injury and attempted robbery.
Emmanuel also pleaded guilty to assaulting a 34-year-old Yamato City resident in April and violating Japan’s narcotics-control law. Law-enforcement officials searched his Yokota residence on June 14 and found 12.5 grams (0.4 ounces) of marijuana, prosecutors said.
On Tuesday, a prosecutor asked that Emmanuel and Warford be sentenced respectively to 11 and 10 years at hard labor. Their defense attorneys sought leniency, conceding both men’s involvement but claiming they played only “passive roles” and were manipulated by Alize.
Warford and Emmanuel testified they played secondary roles in five robberies or attempted thefts from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. May 13 in Yokohama and Yamato cities but said they feared Alize.
And as the spree unfolded, neither acted to stop it. Alize is “hard to say ‘no’ to,” Emmanuel testified. “He’s wild and always has a knife on him. … I was not about to jump in front of a 200-pound alcoholic with a knife. I had no intention at all of trying to stop Alize.”
The three were headed to Yokohama that night to promote their music. But Warford and Emmanuel, both aspiring rappers, said Alize discovered a model gun in Emmanuel’s car, suggested robbing people, then selected random targets on the street.
“When he said he’d do the robberies, I figured he’d be the one doing them,” Emmanuel testified. “I didn’t expect to get out of the car.”
Warford said he lacked the “confidence” to oppose Alize and also sympathized with Emmanuel’s financial difficulties.
Emmanuel remained in the car during the first four incidents, he testified. But then he and Alize robbed two women in Yokohama as Warford stayed behind because, Emmanuel testified, he was “tired of seeing Alize force Johnny to do things he didn’t want to do.”
Warford testified he never assaulted any of the victims but did help in the thefts. He also admitted to pointing a knife at a man’s left shoulder after Alize complained he was too passive.
Prosecutors said the three stole more than $1,300 in yen and U.S. cash and items worth more than $1,000.
Emmanuel and Warford said they’ve both paid “apology” money and written letters of regret to the victims.
But the prosecutor, saying they lacked remorse, asked the three-judge panel for a harsh penalty. Dismissing their contention that Alize was the ringleader, he said they should be held equally accountable. Alize’s separate trial is to begin Nov. 24.
Emmanuel and Alize were arrested June 14; Warford was handed over to Japanese authorities on July 4. Sentencing for Warford and Emmanuel is set for Dec. 13.
Air Force Maj. Richelle Dowdell, a U.S. Forces Japan spokeswoman, said, “The personal values and high standards of professionalism of the vast majority of our U.S. forces members and their families are not compatible with this alleged behavior. We hope that the unfortunate acts of a few won’t tarnish the reputation of the majority of Americans. … When an individual fails to meet the higher standards expected of military professionals, we will hold him or her accountable.”
Following are details of the charges, according to indictments, against Moses Richard Emmanuel, 22; Airman 1st Class Johnny Christopher Warford, 22; and Mewe-Pira Oritsejolomi Oretemi Alize, 25:
The three grabbed a 45-year-old Japanese man from behind and pointed a fake gun to try to rob the man in Yamato city on May 13 around 1:05 a.m. They failed.They punched a 34-year-old Japanese man several times in Yamato city around 1:15 a.m., trying to steal his backpack by pointing the fake gun at him, but he also escaped.At about 2 a.m., the trio grabbed a 20-year-old Japanese man from behind and pointed a knife at his face in Yokohama city. They stole 105,000 yen ($951) and a wallet with an ATM card, a cell phone and five other items valued at about 75,000 yen ($680).They pushed a 31-year-old Japanese man to the ground in Yokohama 2:10 a.m., holding a knife to his face, then stole items with a cash value of about $400.At around 3 a.m., they tried to rob two women talking on the street. They knocked down a 37-year-old woman at a Yokohama city building, then stole her bags containing 50,000 yen ($453) and $62. They also tried to steal a 32-year-old woman’s bag, slamming her head into a glass door when she resisted and bruising her head and face.Emmanuel also was charged with: