• Kyodo

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The Naha Family Court said Friday that it has sent the case of a 19-year-old American arrested on suspicion of car theft and damaging a building in December back to the Naha District Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Judge Hiroaki Saito decided that because the suspect had acted as a leader in a violent incident, it is appropriate for him to be tried in a criminal court.

According to the family court, the suspect, son of a senior U.S. Marine stationed at Kadena Air Base, acted as the ringleader in the car theft, in which the vehicle was subsequently rammed into a clothing shop in Nago after conspiring with a 17-year-old high school student and a 19-year-old college student, both American.

In late January, the boy and the college student also set fire to three cars in the town of Sashiki.

The suspect, who had visited the United States in early February on family business, was arrested March 31 after returning from Seattle and voluntarily going to the police for questioning.

Okinawa police said they had pressed for the suspect’s return through U.S. military investigators. They said earlier that he has admitted to the allegations.

The two other American youths, also relatives of U.S. military personnel and both living at the base, were arrested earlier in March and later sent to the family court.

On Monday, the family court sent the case of the college student to prosecutors, saying it is appropriate for him to be tried in a criminal court, but dismissed the case of the 17-year-old. The court said it is unnecessary to put the high school student on probation.

The three are suspected of stealing a car in the early hours of Dec. 2, ramming it into the clothing store and causing about 540,000 yen worth of damage to the store.

The college student has reportedly confessed to being involved, with the other two, in about 10 other cases including arson.

The names of the three teenagers are being withheld under the Juvenile Law.

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