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Hidetomo Goto of the Democratic Party of Japan moved one step closer to being ousted from the Lower House when a guilty verdict against one of his key campaign staffers was finalized at midnight Monday.

Unless Goto files suit with the Fukuoka High Court within 30 days of being mailed court documents notifying him of the finalized verdict — and then wins — his victory in last summer’s election will be voided.

The 43-year-old first-term lawmaker will also be barred from running in the Kumamoto No. 3 district for the Lower House for five years.

Goto has expressed his intention to file the suit and not resign, saying Saturday that the crime for which Hiroyo Inoue was convicted was “not so malicious as to force a lawmaker to resign.”

He would lose his seat under the guilt-by-association provision in campaign laws.

The Kumamoto District Court on Jan. 28 sentenced Inoue, 43, who was in charge of accounting at Goto’s campaign office, to a suspended 18-month prison term for violating the Public Offices Election Law over campaign activities for the Aug. 30, 2009, election.

Although Inoue appealed, the ruling was upheld by the Fukuoka High Court in April and by the Supreme Court last Thursday. Lower courts have found him guilty of unlawfully paying, in conspiracy with two accomplices, about ¥730,000 in rewards between Aug. 19 and Sept. 11, 2009, to eight temporary workers who distributed campaign leaflets.

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