Niigata kidnapper appeals sentence

Defense lawyers for Nobuyuki Sato, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for confining a schoolgirl to his home in Niigata Prefecture for more than nine years, requested a reduced sentence as court hearings for his appeal began Tuesday.

Sato, 40, from Kashizaki, Niigata Prefecture, has been convicted of kidnapping a 9-year-old girl in the city in November 1990 at knifepoint and confining her to a second-floor room of his home for nine years and two months.

At the Tokyo High Court hearing, Sato’s lawyers said the 14-year prison sentence handed down by the district court was “too heavy.”

The lawyers argued that the district court incorporated a number of other minor offenses, including the theft of 2,400 yen, into the ruling in order to hand down a long prison term. They also accused the court of failing to take into account Sato’s personality disorder.

Prosecutors dismissed the defense team’s arguments.

The high court is scheduled to issue a ruling Dec. 10.

On Nov. 13, 1990, Sato forced the girl into the trunk of his car as she made her way home from school in Sanjo, Niigata Prefecture.

After she was rescued by health officials more than nine years later, she was found to be suffering from a variety of psychological and physical problems, including atrophied leg muscles.

The case sparked a public outcry against the Niigata Prefectural Police, which falsely claimed credit for rescuing the girl and failed to thoroughly investigate her disappearance when it was reported.