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U.S. Base Worker Gets 18 Months over Fatal Car Accident

Date Posted: 2012-02-24

Naha District Court has handed down an 18-month prison sentence to a U.S. base worker over a fatal auto accident last year.

Rufus Ramsey, a 24-year-old American U.S. AAFES employee, was indicted over a car accident in January 2011 that killed a Japanese driver. Ramsey says he plans to appeal the ruling.

It is the first sentence since Japan and the United States agreed last November to revise ways of implementing the bilateral status of forces agreement that gives the United States primary jurisdiction over crimes or accidents involving U.S. military employees on official business. The accord allowed Japanese prosecutors to indict suspects upon U.S. approval for cases involving serious crimes or accidents.

Presiding judge Hideyuki Suzuki says the criminal responsibility of Ramsey is heavy, as he did not pay attention when he was driving. A suspended sentence is not appropriate because of the seriousness of the accident, Suzuki said. After delivering the sentence, Suzuki said that Ramsey should offer his condolences for the victim and apologize directly to the bereaved family rather than lamenting his misfortune.

Suzuki said he hopes that Ramsey will pay for his crime properly although serving a prison term in Japan would be hard for him. In the court, Ramsey yawned and put his hands in his pockets. Ramsey shows no signs of remorse, and the verdict is too light, said Shoji Arakaki, a 21-year-old friend of the victim.

Initially, Ramsey was not indicted, based on the status of forces agreement. Japanese prosecutors indicted Ramsey without arrest soon after the November agreement was made. According to the verdict, on January 12, 2011, Ramsey strayed into the opposite traffic lane on a road in Okinawa city in central Okinawa while driving home from a U.S. base. Ramsey's car crashed into the car of 19-year-old Koki Yogi and killed the Japanese man. Yogi, a company employee, had returned to his home town from Tokai, Aichi Prefecture in central Japan.

Rufus Ramsey had earlier told the court Prefecture that he accepted the charge for the accident. The mother of the victim said there were too many crimes and accidents caused by U.S. soldiers in Okinawa. Their lack of respect mainly comes from the fact that the Japanese side could not charge them under Japanese law, she said.

Weeping, the mother said she wants the man to pay the price for what he had done.

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