Yokota airman court-martialed for bad checks
November 1, 2003
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — A 21-year-old airman indicted by the Japanese government for attempted murder had his day in U.S. military court Thursday for writing $25,650 in bad checks.
Airman 1st Class Adam Harshbarger was sentenced to 18 months in jail after pleading guilty to knowingly writing 21 fraudulent checks to Yokota’s Enlisted Club and Community Bank over a period of three months last summer. The prison term was in accord with a pre-trial agreement.
Yokota’s military lawyers said the bad checks were unrelated to the attempted murder charge.
The Japanese government formally indicted Harshbarger Oct. 21 for attempting to kill a man in Fussa City on July 21. Police said the man was stabbed and needed three months to recover from his injuries, according to Fussa police.
The U.S.-Japan status of forces agreement allows the Japanese government to take custody of a U.S. servicemember accused of a crime committed off base, after the servicemember has been formally indicted. But Japanese officials are waiting for the U.S. military to finish its legal proceedings before requesting custody, said Lt. Col. Ronald Ratton, staff judge advocate for the 374th Airlift Wing legal office.
“We’re both operating off an agreement of our two countries, which says we get to finish our court-martial” if both the United States and Japan have cases at the same time, he said. “They’re respecting that, then they’ll request custody.”
If convicted in Japanese court and sentenced to jail, Harshbarger would serve time in Japanese prison first, according to the agreement. Should Harshbarger have to serve a Japanese prison term, he’d still have to complete his military sentence after completing the Japanese one. Unknown is whether he’d complete the military sentence in Japan or be returned to the United States.
A liquid fuels maintenance specialist with the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron, Harshbarger pleaded guilty to writing 10 checks for $5,750 in cash to the Enlisted Club between May 5 and June 10, 2003. After those checks began bouncing, Harshbarger wrote 11 checks for $19,900 cash to Community Bank at Yokota, drawn on a closed USA Federal Credit Union account. Some of the checks were to pay off debt from the first round of bad checks but also for “numerous things that I wanted,” such as a $7,000 car, computer parts and baby items, Harshbarger said, as his wife and 4-month-old son sat behind him in court.
“I am ashamed my son has a convict for a father,” Harshbarger said.
Area Defense Counsel Capt. Paul Cronin argued that the facilities involved should have known not to cash the checks. How do these services “let an airman first class cash a check for so much cash in one day, let alone day after day after day?” Cronin said.
Checks cashed at the Enlisted Club varied from $150 to $2,000. After Harshbarger bounced two checks at Community Bank, he lied to a banking representative that he was expecting a $12,000 reenlistment bonus and was allowed to cash more checks, according to court testimony.
Harshbarger said he earned $900 per paycheck.
Military judge Lt. Col. Dawn Eflein also discharged Harshbarger from the Air Force for bad conduct and reduced him in rank to E-1. Harshbarger was given 82 days of confinement credit, in part for time that he served before the trial.