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Biker linked to Roppongi killing jailed for 11 years

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

The Tokyo District Court on Thursday handed down an 11-year prison term to Taichi Ishimoto, former leader of a notorious biker gang in the Kanto region, for his “active involvement” in the fatal attack on a nightclub owner in Roppongi last year.

Ishimoto was found guilty of a separate fraud case last month. The 11-year prison term is a combined sentence that covers four charges from fraud to unlawful assembly of weapons.

In the high-profile slaying, Club Flower owner Ryosuke Fujimoto, 31, died after he was bludgeoned by a group of attackers armed with metal bats. The court found that they had mistaken Fujimoto for someone else who was feuding with Kanto Rengo, a now-defunct motorcycle gang.

Ishimoto did not take part in the attack and maintained his innocence. While acknowledging he was near the nightclub when the fatal attack took place in September 2012, Ishimoto insisted he didn’t know anything about the attack, let alone had an active role.

The court said it found that Ishimoto actively gathered information on the whereabouts of the intended target by staying in touch with employees at the club, which the man frequented.

The court found that Ishimoto also told Shinichi Mitate, a former head of Kanto Rengo believed to be the mastermind behind the beating, through a third person that the intended target was in the club on the night of the slaying. Mitate remains at large and is believed to have fled the country.

“It’s fair to say the defendant’s act (as a go-between) helped trigger the incident,” said presiding Judge Tomonao Onizawa, adding that after the slaying, Ishimoto tried to cover up the identity of the attackers by misleading the police with false testimony.

Prosecutors had sought a 22-year prison term for Ishimoto, accusing him for manipulating the attackers.

While condemning Ishimoto’s “active involvement in the case,” the court ruled his culpability was not sufficient to identify him as its mastermind.

As he listened to the ruling, Ishimoto, who had tied his long hair in a ponytail, occasionally shook his head. Upon leaving the courtroom, he glared at the gallery and said: “This is such a disappointment. I don’t understand.”

He then turned to prosecutors and shouted out: “You better know this. I’ll never give up.”

Eight other suspects, including ex-members of Kanto Rengo, have already been sentenced to eight to 15 years their involvement in the murder.