A Nissan X-Trail belonging to Air Force Tech. Sgt. Porter Smith-munroe is impounded at a police lot in Okinawa city, Oct. 10, 2023.

A Nissan X-Trail belonging to Air Force Tech. Sgt. Porter Smith-munroe is impounded at a police lot in Okinawa city, Oct. 10, 2023. (Mari Higa/Stars and Stripes)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A U.S. airman accused of a drunken hit-and-run crash last month on Okinawa has been fined about $2,000 by a Japanese court after prosecutors requested a summary judgment.

Tech Sgt. Porter Smith-munroe, 35, of Kadena Air Base, was arrested at Koza Music Town in Okinawa city around 12:40 a.m. Oct. 7, about an hour after he struck a taxi with his car and fled the scene, an Okinawa police spokesman said by phone Oct. 10.

He was found guilty of drunken driving on Nov. 8 in Naha Summary Court and fined about $2,000, a Naha District Court spokeswoman said by phone Monday. She declined to provide further details of the proceedings.

A spokesman for Naha District Public Prosecutors Office declined to say Monday why Smith-munroe was not charged with the hit and run.

To avoid a trial, Japanese prosecutors will sometimes ask for a summary judgment in minor cases where the facts are not in dispute. Suspects must agree to initiate proceedings and can opt for a trial at any time.

Smith-munroe was eastbound on Koza Gate Street, just outside Kadena’s Gate 2, in a black Nissan X-Trail when he struck the taxi, the police spokesman said. He then drove about 600 feet before pulling into an alley.

The taxi driver, whom police did not identify, followed the vehicle and called police when it stopped, the spokesman said. There were no injuries and both vehicles received only minor damage.

A Breathalyzer at the scene measured Smith-munroe’s blood-alcohol content at 0.12%, four times the legal limit for driving in Japan, the spokesman said. By comparison, all 50 U.S. states have set 0.08% as the legal limit for driving under the influence or while impaired.

Police forwarded charges of drunken driving and leaving the scene of a crash to prosecutors on Oct. 8, the spokesman said. Smith-munroe faced a maximum five years and three months in prison or a $7,000 fine.

He was indicted Nov. 8, the same day of the summary decision, the court spokeswoman said. Some Japanese officials are required to speak to the media only on the condition of anonymity.

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Mari Higa is an Okinawa-based reporter/translator who joined Stars and Stripes in 2021. She previously worked as a research consultant and translator. She studied sociology at the University of Birmingham and Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of Social Sciences.
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Matthew M. Burke has been reporting from Okinawa for Stars and Stripes since 2014. The Massachusetts native and UMass Amherst alumnus previously covered Sasebo Naval Base and Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, for the newspaper. His work has also appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times and other publications.

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