Defendant’s excuse fails to keep him out of prison.

Tokyo’s Ginza neighborhood is a very calm and collected place. While it’s one of the fanciest sections of the city, Ginza’s vibe comes from high-class department stores, elegant restaurants, and quiet bars, leaving rowdy pubs, noisy night clubs, and flashy party places to other parts of the city.

So it was especially shocking to see a smash-and-grab robbery, itself a rarity in Japan, happen in Ginza back in May, when a group of three masked men walked into a watch shop and held the staff prisoners at knifepoint while shattering the display cases and stealing 74 items, with an estimated combined value of roughly 300 million yen (US$2.05 million). Though the robbers piled into a getaway car and made an escape, the group was apprehended later that same day on the other side of town in the Akasaka district. A total of five arrests have been made, and the first adult verdict has just been handed down, sending one 18-year-old thief to jail for the next few years of his life.

▼ Video of the robbery and a dramatic zoom-in on the trial’s presiding judge, Madoka Hiruta

The 18-year-old’s trial began on September 8, at which point he admitted to the charges made against him, but claimed he did not know that the group was planning to commit a crime until the day of the robbery. “A friend of mine asked me to do a job and said it would pay one million yen,” the defendant said, adding “If I had known it was for a robbery, I wouldn’t’ have accepted the offer.”

That statement of reluctance is somewhat less convincing in light of investigators’ discovery that prior to robbing the store in Ginza, the group had intended to rob a watch store in the Ueno neighborhood but decided that the Ueno store had too many police in the vicinity that day, after which they hastily changed their target to the Ginza shop.

The prosecution was seeking seven years in prison for the 18-year-old, while the defense lawyer asked for leniency due to the 18-year-old not being the leader of the group, and none of the store staff being injured and all of the stolen items being recovered might make one think the defendant would be able to escape a long prison sentence. That was not how things shook out, though, with presiding Tokyo district court judge Madoka Hiruta still handing down a sentence of four years and six months of prison time. “This was a blatant, dangerous, and malicious crime” Hiruta said during the sentencing on Monday. “Even taking the defendant’s mental immaturity into account, he must be imprisoned [for his actions],” citing his threatening the hostages with a knife as a key role in the crime.

Of the four other people who were arrested, a presumably younger defendant has been placed in a youth facility for rehabilitation (an alternative to prison no longer open to the 18-year-old since Japan has lowered its age of legal adulthood from 20 to 18). Verdicts have yet to be reached for the remaining three adult defendants.

Source: TBS News Dig via Yahoo! Japan News via Hachima Kiko, NHK News Web
Top image: Pakutaso
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