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TOKYO — The Tokyo High Court on Tuesday upheld the robbery conviction of an airman assigned to Camp Zama, ruling he “played an important role” in a series of incidents in Kanagawa prefecture in May 2005, including one that left a Japanese woman hospitalized for a week.

Airman 1st Class Johnny Christopher Warford, who was assigned to a 374th Communications Squadron detachment at Camp Zama, had argued that his six-year prison sentence at hard labor was too severe. After Tuesday’s ruling, he had 14 days to file an appeal with Japan’s Supreme Court.

Warford and Moses Richard Emmanuel, the civilian husband of a Yokota Air Base servicemember, were found guilty during a joint trial in Yokohama District Court in December. Emmanuel, also convicted of assault and marijuana possession, received seven years at hard labor.

In his lone appearance before the three-judge panel last month, Warford testified Emmanuel and Mewe-Pira Oritsejolomi Oretemi Alize, of Fujisawa City, an English teacher with no ties to the U.S. military, had coerced him into committing the acts by capitalizing on his passive nature. But the high court found no mitigating circumstances and called the argument “groundless.”

The panel weighed several factors considered favorable to Warford, it said, including that he admitted participating in the robberies, paid about 360,000 yen in damages to victims, didn’t play a leading role and kept none of the money stolen that night.

But the panel ruled, “The defendant … in each of the incidents played an important role by pointing a knife at victims or holding victims down to suppress resistance. We don’t find the original judgment is unjustly severe.

“We considered the favorable circumstances of the defendant. However, we cannot ignore his involvement in these incidents.”

The three Americans are accused of attacking six victims between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. on May 13, 2005, in Yokohama and Yamato cities. The three are accused of attacking their victims from behind and knocking them to the ground, using an imitation gun and knife while hiding their faces with bandanas. The Americans are accused of stealing about 155,000 yen, $62 and a batch of items collectively valued at more than $1,000.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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