The “I was talking about the beer” defense failed.

Last month, a 48-year-old man walked into a Bic Camera electronics store in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture and started shouting out, “I got corona!” and was promptly arrested.

According to subsequent reports, the man was angry that he was made to wait by staff. After growing impatient he decided to make his declaration. However, he was also said to be intoxicated at the time and claimed: “I said I was drinking Corona beer.”

Meanwhile, the store itself had to close down for disinfection which is a very costly process at the best of times, let alone on the cusp of a major economic downturn. Because of this economic impact, and to make an example that might deter copycats, the man was given a 10-month prison sentence for his verbal outburst.

With such a long term for simply uttering a few words, the man appealed, but Nagoya High Court Judge Shinji Kano upheld the original sentence, saying: “There is no mistake in the previous judgement that the defendant’s remarks had a great impact on society as a whole, while the spread of COVID-19 was becoming a social problem.”

Readers of the news online tended to feel the sentence was excessive, but many were quick to add that the man’s behavior was unquestionably stupid.

“I don’t pity the guy, but it is a heavy punishment…”
“I’m glad he’s socially distant in prison now.”
“That’s too strict. LOL”
“You can’t even make a joke anymore?”
Obstruction of business crimes can get up to three years in prison, so he got off rather light.”
“Wow, even killers can get suspended sentences.”
“It’s pretty much terrorism when you think about it.”

Comparing this to other similar incidents around the world. In the Netherlands, a woman was given only four weeks in prison after claiming she had COVID-19 and then spitting in a police officer’s face. In the UK two men were given sentences of six months and nine months for threatening people with a coronavirus that they didn’t have. However, these cases each had additional factors, such as wielding an ax, shoplifting, resisting arrest, as well as also spitting and coughing on people.

It kind of makes one wonder what someone in Japan might get for the added charge of assault in the form of coughing on someone. As bad luck would have it, that did happen, once again in Aichi Prefecture.

Last April, a 38-year-old man was speaking to a receptionist in a government office in the town of Oharu when he got what he called “an uncontrollable urge” to say he had COVID-19 and then start coughing heavily. In this case, he added “I tested positive” leaving no chance of thinking that he was talking about beer. During his trial last July, the man was handed down an 18 months prison sentence, with the judge adding, “personally I think it should be heavier.”

▼ Several people and one baseball cap were present at the sentencing

So, make no mistake, the Japanese legal system has very little tolerance for playing around when it comes to the current pandemic. Be sure to add “I got corona” alongside “weed is great” in the list of things better left unsaid in public here.

Source: CBC News, Niconico News, Tokai TV, Daily Mail, Corona 24 News, Hachima Kiko
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