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Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007
Prosecutor avoids prison for forged nixing of case
A former prosecutor was handed a suspended two-year prison term Tuesday for forging signatures and personal seals of a molestation victim to make it appear she had filed a request to withdraw her criminal complaint.
Satoru Saito, 40, who worked for the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor's Office until April, was handed the sentence by the Tokyo District Court.
He was in charge of a complaint case in July 2006 in which the woman accused a male acquaintance of sexually abusing her in a car.
Saito faked a withdrawal request from the victim by forging her signature and personal seal in March to expedite his work because he was to be transferred to Sapporo the following month.
His superiors approved the bogus request and the case was dropped. The illegal act came to light when the victim contacted the office about the case.
Saito was fired in August following his indictment. Two of his superiors were reprimanded and two others received admonitory warnings.
Saito acknowledged the misdeed, pleaded guilty and expressed remorse when his trial opened last month. Prosecutors had demanded a two-year prison term.
Past misconduct by prosecutors has rarely drawn attention, but the malicious nature of Saito's case prompted him to be charged.
"If the complainant had not made contact, the case would have been left unsolved. It is a serious crime that could jeopardize the complainant's rights and damage the public interest," presiding Judge Ikuro Toishi said as he read out the verdict. But Toishi also said Saito was in an unstable mental state when he had committed the crime, and he has been punished by being fired and because his case received widespread media coverage. Saito had no criminal record. These factors apparently led the court to suspend Saito's sentence for four-years.
Saito began his career 14 years ago and was appointed to a number of prosecutor's offices in different regions. He was assigned to the Tokyo office in April 2005 until his transfer to Sapporo last April.
The Tokyo office investigated the molestation case again and dropped it due to insufficient evidence.