TACHIKAWA, Japan — An American teen testified Monday in Japanese court that he never intended to hurt anyone when he strung a rope across a street near Yokota Air Base last year, causing serious injury to a Japanese woman on a scooter.

During his testimony, the defendant detailed his night of mischief with other Yokota Air Base teenagers — including blocking motorists from streets with traffic cones, discharging fire extinguishers and evading a police patrol car — that culminated with the August 2009 incident.

“I was caught up in the moment,” said the teen, the son of an Air Force nurse at Yokota.

He told the three-judge panel that he expected motorists to spot the rope and turn around.

“I never meant to harm anyone,” he said during proceedings at Tokyo District Court in Tachikawa.

The 19-year-old’s name was withheld from testimony because he is considered a juvenile under Japanese law, although prosecutors indicted him as an adult in May for the August 2009 incident. He is charged with causing bodily injury and obstruction of traffic and faces a maximum 15-year sentence if convicted.

The victim, who was 23 at the time, suffered a fractured skull, spent 17 days in the hospital and was out of work for two months following the crash.

Three other American teenagers from Yokota initially connected to the incident were cleared in late 2009. Japanese police took all four into custody in early December for questioning and released them Christmas Day, a day after all four and their parents apologized to the victim’s family.

The defendant’s mother testified Monday that the family has paid about $17,000 in gomen nasai (“I’m sorry”) payments to the victim, as is customary in the Japanese legal system. Most of the money was paid last week, she said.

The court asked the woman what kind of punishment she had given her son. She responded that her son’s guilty conscience and his inability to enlist in the Air Force as planned was all the punishment he could endure.

“That’s the punishment he lives with everyday,” she said.

The final hearing of the trial is scheduled for Sept. 17 at 10 a.m.

author picture
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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