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NAHA — A Naha District public prosecutor Friday asked for a three-year prison sentence for a U.S. civilian employee who pleaded guilty to possessing illegal antique rifles and ammunition at his Yomitan home.

Delbert W. Spear, 46, a civilian contractor at Torii Station, is charged with possessing four antique rifles, live ammunition and four swords. He was arrested in May 22 for keeping one rifle, an outdated model used during World War I. On Friday, prosecutor Eisaku Yokoyama said Spear also had violated Japanese law for possessing three other antique handmade rifles and the four swords.

Defense attorney Miyatomi Harushima asked for a suspended sentence, saying that the antiquated weapons were meant merely for decoration, not for practical use.

Sentencing is set for Aug. 23.

According to evidence presented Friday and at earlier hearings, Spear obtained one World War I-era rifle from Australia and three handmade rifles from Thailand, all given to him by soldiers from those countries as souvenirs of joint exercises Spear participated in while with the Army Special Forces. He retired in 2003.

Spear, who has been out of jail on bail, testified Friday that he had bought the swords through mail orders and had intended to give them as gifts to friends.

The ammunition was collected from a military live-fire training site on Okinawa. According to evidence, part of Spear’s job on Torii Station was to recover unused cartridges from the training site. Yokoyama said that although military regulations require disposal of all recovered cartridges in a designated container on Torii Station on the same day, Spear took the ammunition home.

“It was out of laziness,” Yokoyama said.

Yokoyama said using illegal antique rifles as home decorations was disrespectful to Japan’s arms control law. He added that Spear stored the rifles with ammunition that could have been loaded.

“There was a danger that they could have been stolen and wrongfully used,” he said.

Judge Naoyuki Fukushima asked Spear whether it was illegal in the United States to keep a rifle or ammunition at home.

“No, not at all,” Spear replied.

“Please understand fully that it is a serious crime in Japan,” the judge said.

According to the Okinawa District Customs Office, bringing any type of firearm into Japan is prohibited, except for hunting or other sport use with appropriate authorization. The office advised any American in Japan, under the status of forces agreement, who has an unauthorized weapon to contact his or her military authority and arrange to store it on a military base.

Harushima argued that Spear had obtained the rifles as souvenirs and kept them for display purposes.

“He had no intention of using them himself or letting others use them,” he said, asking for leniency. “The swords as well. He meant to give them away as gifts. They were no more than those imitations sold at souvenir stores on Okinawa.”


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