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The Tokyo District Court sentenced Tokyo High Court Judge Yasuhiro Muraki to a suspended two-year prison term Monday for paying for sex with three girls ranging in age from 14 to 16.

Muraki, 43, owned up to the allegations during the trial. His case will be brought before the Diet’s Judge Impeachment Court on Sept. 20.

He is currently suspended from duty.

If Muraki is dismissed, he will be the fifth judge in Japan to face this penalty. He submitted his resignation to the high court May 23 but the offer has been shelved due to his impeachment trial.

In handing down Monday’s sentence, which was suspended for five years, presiding Judge Megumi Yamamuro said Muraki “should have been aware that he had to strictly discipline himself as a protector of the law.”

“However, (he) carried on with these shameful deeds and such actions are inexcusable,” Yamamura continued, adding that Muraki has left a stain on the history of the judiciary that will be difficult to remove.

He also noted, however, that Muraki is almost certain to be impeached and that the crimes he committed were not directly related to his work.

With regard to sentences handed down in similar cases, Yamamura said it would have been “excessively harsh” to send Muraki to prison just because he is a judge.

The defendant had maintained that he tried to “run away from reality” as he was feeling the pressures of being a judge.

After handing down the verdict, Yamamuro called on the defendant to reflect upon himself from the viewpoint of living to serve others.

“While you may experience days of despair and anxiety from now on, there are people who lose their life to illness or an accident while unable to fulfill their dreams. You should be thankful of the fact that you are alive,” he said, extending words of encouragement to Muraki.

While prosecutors had demanded a two-year prison term, Muraki’s lawyers had sought a suspended term.

After the ruling, Susumu Tsuruta, a lawyer for the defense, said he was relieved at the suspended sentence, adding that his client had been prepared to accept any decision by the court.

According to the ruling, Muraki paid a 14-year-old junior high school girl 20,000 yen to have sex with him at a hotel in Kawasaki in January in violation of laws banning the purchase of sex from minors. In April, he had sex with a 15-year-old girl and fondled a 16-year-old, also after giving them cash.

The Metropolitan Police Department arrested him May 19.

Muraki was appointed to the high court after working as an assistant judge at the Hiroshima District Court, the Nagoya Family Court and the Kanazawa District and Family courts in Ishikawa Prefecture, as well as a judge at the Yamaguchi Family and District courts. He passed the National Bar Examination in 1983.

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