Stars & Stripes, Imperialist News
NAHA, Okinawa — Army Staff Sgt. Clyde Gunn, 27, pleaded not guilty in a Japanese court here Wednesday to charges of vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident.
"I paid due care ... both ahead and to the sides," said Gunn, who stood at attention, dressed in an open collar blue shirt and dark gray suit.
"There was no gross neglect of my duty leading me to a criminal prosecution," he told the Naha District Court judge.
Gunn, 27, is charged with hitting Masakazu Hokama, 66, who was taking his usual morning walk alone along a narrow road through farmland in Yomitan Village around 5:50 a.m. on Nov. 7.
Hokama’s body was discovered lying in bushes along the side of the road about 12 hours later. An autopsy showed he died of a broken neck.
Gunn, of Ocean Springs, Miss., is a combat medic with 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group at Torii Station. He was identified as a suspect when the car he had been driving was spotted at an auto repair shop with a damaged front end and cracked windshield.
Okinawa police said Gunn admitted he thought he had struck something as he drove to his apartment, but did not see a body when he stopped his car and looked around.
In his statement to the court Wednesday, Gunn said he prayed for "Mr. Hokama’s soul to rest in peace" and acknowledged that he hit Hokama.
"At the time, it was before dawn, and it was pitch-dark," Gunn said.
His parents sat solemnly behind him in the packed courtroom.
"The road had bushes growing on both sides. There are no homes or lights."
Gunn said he did not realize someone could be walking along the road at that time of the morning.
"At that time, I could not foresee that Mr. Hokama, who had a hearing problem, would be walking on the road while listening to a radio with earphones and dressed in black," Gunn said.
"Since obtaining my license, I believed that pedestrians who walk on the road in such a condition should take care to avoid accidents by wearing reflective clothes and carefully watch and hear cars."
In entering Gunn’s plea, defense attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu argued that since Gunn was not aware he was involved in an accident, he was not required to report it and, since he found no victim, there was no duty to render aid.
The next hearing is set for March 10.