Stars and Stripes, newspaper of the American occupiers
TOKYO — The Yokota teen under investigation for causing a Japanese motorcyclist to crash could face charges of causing injury and obstruction of traffic, but not attempted murder, according to Japanese officials.
The 19-year-old male was released from custody Christmas Day along with three other teens who had been held since Dec. 5 on suspicion of attempted murder, a spokesman from the Tokyo district public prosecutor’s office in Tachikawa said Monday.
The oldest teen, along with a 17-year-old and two 15-year-olds, were suspected of strining a rope across a street near Yokota Air Base late last summer. The rope caused a motorcycle crash, and the 23-year-old woman who was driving suffered a skull fracture and lay in a coma for weeks.
The prosecutor’s office changed the investigation from attempted murder to injury because investigators found no intent of murder, the prosecutor’s spokesman said.
The teens are in their parents’ custody, according to Air Force spokesman Maj. Christopher Watt. The four, whose parents are airmen with the 374th Air Wing at Yokota, are not restricted to base, Watt said Monday.
He said base officials have yet to determine whether they would take any action against the teens.
“It’s too early to tell,” he said during a phone interview.
Because the teens are civilian family members, base officials are limited in the way they could be punished, Watt said. Some options could involve community service or barring them from base, which might mean they would return to the States.
First, Watt said, the military is waiting to see how the Japanese officials handle the case.
“We want to make sure we recognize the Japanese legal system,” he said.
Now the case lies with a Tokyo Family Court judge, who can decide whether to keep the case and treat the remaining suspect as a juvenile — in Japan, a 19-year-old can be considered a minor — or send the case back to Tokyo District Court for an official indictment. To date, no one has been charged in the case.