• Kyodo

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A former IT company employee admitted in court Thursday to sending online death threats by hijacking other people’s computers and changed his plea to guilty in a high-profile case in which four people were wrongly arrested.

At the Tokyo District Court, Yusuke Katayama, 32, had initially denied sending messages in 2012 threatening to attack elementary schools and claiming to have planted bombs on an airplane and at a shrine, arguing that he, too, had been wrongly arrested.

“I’m truly sorry,” Katayama told the court. “I have deceived a lot of people up to now. I betrayed everyone, including those I threatened and those wrongly arrested.”

On Friday, Katayama, who was free on bail, allegedly sent an email to media outlets from a smartphone he had buried along the Tama River in Tokyo. Claiming to be from the “real culprit,” the message was timed to be sent remotely while he was in court.

Police said traces of Katayama’s DNA was found on the device and that a message with the same content was sent from it. He was returned to custody Tuesday after the court revoked his bail.

At Thursday’s court session, he said he changed his plea because investigators had found proof he sent the email and that he “thought there was no way to talk my way out of it . . . I even tried to kill myself.”

The computers of the four people wrongly arrested were infected by viruses that let Katayama access them remotely and send the threats.

Katayama’s lawyers are now requesting a psychiatric evaluation for their client.

They said they started to question his mental health after seeing his sudden plea reversal. Previously, Katayama had asserted his innocence with apparent sincerity in trials and press conferences.

When he confessed to one of his lawyers, Katayama was quoted as saying, “I can deceive (people) with no scruples.”

One of the reporters who received the time-released email while Katayama was in court was Shoko Egawa. She said she received it as she was sitting in the courtroom, observing Katayama, and that when she approached him during a break to show him the message, he looked genuinely surprised.

“His reaction was natural, and it’s hard to believe he faked it,” she said.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, Katayama attorney Hiroshi Sato said he had been “completely deceived” by his client.

He also expressed concern about Katayama’s confession, in which he called himself a “psychopath, because lies just come out of me naturally.”

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