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NAHA, Okinawa — An American teacher was sentenced to three years in prison Wednesday and fined 500,000 yen, about $4,500, for selling marijuana he grew in his closet.

However, Matthew Chapple, 27, a former Air Force servicemember who taught part time in a Japanese elementary school in Naha, won’t spend any time in prison — as long as he behaves.

Naha District Court Chief Judge Nobuyuki Yokota suspended the prison sentence and placed Chapple on probation for four years.

Previously, Chapple pleaded guilty to growing marijuana in his apartment in the Oyama district of Ginowan and conspiring with Robert Evans, 25, a Marine Corps Community Services employee on Camp Kinser, to sell it to Americans.

Okinawa Narcotic Control officers confiscated 8.87 ounces of marijuana July 11 from Chaplet’s home, including several plants being grown in a closet. The investigation stemmed from the June 20 discovery of a bag of marijuana in the car of two 18-year-old dependent family members of active-duty servicemembers on Camp Foster.

Eleven Americans were identified as being involved with the sale of marijuana, but only Evans and Chapple were indicted.

“Chapple grew marijuana for profit and the amount of the marijuana he and his accomplice spread among community was not small,” Yokota said. “His criminal responsibility is serious.”

However, he noted Chapple had no previous convictions and appeared remorseful.

“Make sure that you keep your hands off from marijuana or any illegal substances in the future,” Yokota told Chapple.

Chapple, standing before him, nodded.

“Yes, sir,” he said meekly.

Police said Chapple and Evans made about $8,200 from marijuana sales before they were arrested in July.

Evans also pleaded guilty. During a hearing earlier this month, Naha District Prosecutor Tsuyoshi Satake sought an 18-month sentence for his part in the operation. Evans will be sentenced Oct. 1.


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