AAFES employee in Japan pleads guilty to vehicular manslaughter
January 23, 2012
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — An Army and Air Force Exchange Service employee pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter during the opening of his trial in Naha on Monday, just two months after the U.S. and Japan changed treaty guidelines to allow for his prosecution.
Rufus J. Ramsey III, 24, is charged with causing a collision that killed a 19-year-old Japanese driver in January 2011 while he was commuting home from his job at an exchange store on Camp Foster.
The military had revoked Ramsey’s Japanese driving privileges for five years following the incident, but the Japanese government was unable to charge him with a crime based on an interpretation of the treaty governing U.S.-Japan relations.
The case stoked widespread outrage among Okinawans, and months of mounting local pressure convinced the two countries to take another look at the treaty rules. In late November, it was determined that any U.S. civilian who causes death or permanent injury to Japanese nationals while on duty may face prosecution in Japanese courts.
One day after the ruling, Ramsey was indicted.
His trial is expected to close in early February, at which time the court will determine his sentence.
Ramsey, who remains an AAFES employee, testified Monday that he lost control of his vehicle after overtaking a car ahead of him. He swerved into the opposite lane, and collided with a car driven by Koki Yogi, 19, on Highway 329 in Okinawa City, according to his attorney, Kotaro Ito.
Ito told reporters that his client showed remorse and offered a letter of apology to the victim’s family.
Yogi’s mother testified from behind a curtain during the hearing Monday.
“I was suddenly and unreasonably deprived of the life of my son, which is more precious than my own life,” she said. “I want him (Ramsey) to realize how much sorrow and grief he has caused us.”