• Kyodo

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The Yokohama District Court sentenced a 25-year-old man Thursday to a life prison term for causing two women to die of exposure after he drugged them, robbed them and dumped them outdoors in Kanagawa Prefecture between late 1998 and early 1999.

“The defendant bears serious criminal responsibility, because the crimes are equivalent to willful negligence resulting in death,” presiding Judge Hiroshi Yamura said in sentencing Katsumi Hoshino to life, as prosecutors sought.

Hoshino, who was unemployed and had no fixed address, drugged, robbed and abandoned the two Kanagawa Prefecture women — a 24-year-old from Hiratsuka and a 20-year-old from Fujisawa — resulting in their deaths in December 1998 and January 1999, the court said. Hoshino became acquainted with the women, whose names were not disclosed, through a telephone message service.

“The crime, in which a telephone message service that allows users to remain anonymous was utilized, had a massive impact on society,” Judge Yamura said.

The case witnessed subsequent crimes utilizing telephone messages, the Internet and e-mail, the judge added.

The court said that on Dec. 27, 1998, Hoshino drugged the Hiratsuka woman during a date, and when she fell unconscious, stole about 10,000 yen in cash and her cellphone. He drugged the Fujisawa woman Jan. 5, 1999, and stole about 7,000 yen from her. The two died of exposure after being left unconscious outdoors.

Hoshino was also charged with drugging and robbing seven other women living in Kanagawa Prefecture and Tokyo as well as a 4-year-old girl, the daughter of one of the seven women who was with her mother when the woman met Hoshino.

Hoshino pleaded guilty to robbing the two women but entered no plea on the charges linked to their deaths, claiming the victims took the drugs on their own.

However, the judge rejected Hoshino’s claim.

The 55-year-old father of one of the two women who died told reporters after hearing the ruling, “I am glad Hoshino was given the sentence demanded by prosecutors.”

Criminals have increasingly resorted to electronic media recently.

In May, a Tokyo High Court judge was arrested on charges of violating the law against child prostitution by paying for sex with a 14-year-old schoolgirl he met earlier this year via a voice message service, and a Kyoto man was arrested in May for murdering two women he became acquainted with via e-mail.

In February 1999, police turned over to prosecutors the case against a cram school instructor of Sapporo who allegedly assisted in a suicide by sending cyanide to a woman with whom he became acquainted via the Internet. The instructor killed himself.

Police arrested several company employees in Yokohama in March 2000 on suspicion of raping a woman after recruiting others via e-mail to take part in the rape.

Last January, a medical doctor in Saitama Prefecture was arrested on suspicion of violating the law prohibiting child prostitution by paying to have sex with girls aged 17 or younger. The doctor told police that he had purchased sex from more than 100 young women whom he met through a telephone message service.

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