MAEBASHI — The Maebashi District Court sentenced a 41-year-old gangster to death Monday for killing a gang member and three bystanders in a shooting at a bar in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, in 2003.
Kenichiro Yamada, a senior member of the Yano Mutsumi-kai group, and another member of the gang, Masato Kohinata, 38, fired guns at the bar on Jan 25, 2003, killing a bodyguard of the rival group's former boss and three members of the public who were there as customers. The two were involved in the shooting under the direction of Osamu Yano, 59-year-old head of the Yano Mutsumi-kai. Yano had earlier been sentenced to death. (Kyodo News)
Gang boss sentenced to death for fatally shooting 4 in bar
MAEBASHI -- A high-ranking member of a crime syndicate was sentenced to death on Monday for fatally shooting three bar customers and a guard for a rival gang boss while trying to murder the yakuza.
The Maebashi District Court convicted Kenichiro Yamada, 41, a senior member of an affiliate of the Sumiyoshi-kai crime syndicate, of murder.
On the orders of the 59-year-old boss of his gang, Yamada and another member fired random shots into a bar in Maebashi in January 2003 in a bid to murder the 60-year-old yakuza who leads a rival organization, according to the ruling.
Three bar customers and a guard for the rival yakuza died in the incident, while the targeted gang boss and another person were seriously injured.
Masato Kohinata, 38, the other member who also fired shots at the bar and Osamu Yano, the boss of their group, were earlier sentenced to death and appealed the ruling to a higher court.
Third mobster faces gallows over Gunma bar shooting
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008
MAEBASHI, Gunma Pref. (Kyodo) The Maebashi District Court sentenced a gangster to death Monday for killing a mobster and three bystanders in a shooting at a bar in 2003.
Relatives of people slain in a 2003 bar shooting in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, face reporters Monday after a yakuza was sentenced to hang for the crime. KYODO PHOTO
Found guilty was Kenichiro Yamada, 41, a senior member of the Yano Mutsumi-kai underworld group.
"The case is an unprecedented tragedy as three people who happened to be at the bar were gunned down, and the defendant played an essential role in the shooting" involving other gang members, , presiding Judge Yasuhiro Kuga said.
Capital punishment is "the only option in terms of the severity of the crime," Kuga said, calling the acts "extremely atrocious."
Yamada is the third person to be sentenced to hang over the shooting.
His lawyers plan to file an appeal.
According to the court, Yamada and another member of the gang, Masato Kohinata, 38, opened fire at the bar in Maebashi on Jan. 25, 2003, killing three bystanders and seriously wounding another as well as the 60-year-old former boss of a rival group. They then fatally shot the bodyguard of the mob boss outside the bar.
Yamada and Kohinata were involved in the shooting under orders from Osamu Yano, 59, head of the Yano Mutsumi-kai, the court said.
The shooting was part of a turf war between the rival Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai syndicates. The Yano Mutsumi-kai was affiliated with the Sumiyoshi-kai, and the shooting in Maebashi was targeted against the rival group member as a reprisal against the murders in 2001 of two Sumiyoshi-kai members in a funeral house in Tokyo, according to police.
Yamada initially denied involvement but later made a partial confession to the shootings. His lawyers had sought leniency, claiming he shot only some of the victims.
But the court held Yamada responsible for all the deaths and injuries at least as an accomplice, even though he may not have shot them all.
Prosecutors had demanded the death penalty in their closing arguments, harshly denouncing the shooting as "a crime of unprecedented violence and a blatant challenge to a nation ruled by law."
Yano is appealing his death sentence given separately by the same district court. Kohinata is appealing his death sentence, which has been upheld at the high-court level.
Relatives of the victims welcomed the death sentence handed to Yamada, saying they had wanted this for the past five years.
"We want (Yamada) to think about the fear this crime generated among the public," one of the relatives told reporters after the ruling.
The Japan Times: Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008