Sakai is handed a suspended 18-month prison term

by Setsuko Kamiya

Former actress and singer Noriko Sakai was sentenced Monday to a suspended 18-month prison term for possessing and using illegal drugs in July and August.

The Tokyo District Court gave a three-year suspended term to the 38-year-old Sakai, who had gone into hiding for six days before turning herself in at a police station.

Presiding Judge Hiroaki Murayama said that although her crime was serious, he decided to suspend her prison term because she owned up to her charges and demonstrated deep regret.

“The defendant has starred in many TV dramas and movies, but unfortunately this trial is a reality,” Murayama told Sakai after he handed down the sentence. “I believe that the defendant will realize the weight of her sentence. . . . And I strongly hope that she will completely cut off from stimulants and rehabilitate herself.”

The court found that Sakai took stimulants July 30 in a hotel bathroom on Amami Island in Kagoshima Prefecture with her 41-year-old husband, Yuichi Takaso. The couple and their son were visiting the island to observe a solar eclipse.

The court also said 0.008 grams of stimulants were found in Sakai’s apartment in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on Aug. 3.

Sakai was reportedly at the scene of her husband’s Aug. 3 arrest but refused to come to the police station for a voluntarily urine test. She disappeared after her husband was arrested for possessing 0.817 grams of amphetamine in Shibuya Ward.

During her trial, Sakai admitted she fled to give herself time to get all traces of the stimulants out of her system before turning herself in. She also said that to cut herself off from the use of drugs, she was thinking of filing for a divorce.

Takaso, who describes himself as a professional surfer, said in his trial in October that he was the one who purchased the narcotics from an Iranian drug dealer, and used them with his wife. Prosecutors demanded a two-year prison term for Takaso, whose ruling is scheduled for Nov. 27.

Sakai participated in a government-run antinarcotics campaign in 1993 and also starred in a public relations film by the Supreme Court to promote the introduction of the lay judge system that took effect in May. Making her debut in the mid-1980s, her popularity also extended to Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.