• Kyodo

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A convenience store manager was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison for kidnapping a 7-year-old boy and holding him for a 5 million yen ransom in Hyogo Prefecture last year.

In handing down the sentence, presiding Judge Yasuhiro Morioka of the Kobe District Court said Takahiro Kasagi, 51, perpetrated a “mean and vicious” crime that could have serious psychological effects on the child.

“His motive was selfish and self-serving, without consideration for other people,” Morioka said.

The judge added, however, that the boy was found unharmed and Kasagi has shown regret for committing the crime.

When the judge told Kasagi to stay away from crime after completing his sentence, he concurred and bowed deeply, with his hands trembling.

Prosecutors had demanded a 10-year prison term.

Kasagi, of Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, kidnapped first-grader Naito Kondo as he was on his way home from an elementary school in Miki, Hyogo Prefecture, on Nov. 29.

According to the court, Kasagi hatched the plot to kidnap someone because he had huge debts and was stealing money from his convenience store. Kasagi, who did not know the victim, snatched the boy when he saw him walking alone.

He phoned the boy’s home seven times demanding the ransom while he moved around the Kobe and Akashi areas, according to the ruling.

Police arrested Kasagi on Nov. 30 when they found him with the boy at an expressway parking area in Himeji. He was placing a call from a phone booth.

Kasagi pleaded guilty in court. His lawyers asked the court for leniency because he did not physically harm the boy.

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