National / Crime & Legal

Ex-Morning-Musume idol Hitomi Yoshizawa gets suspended sentence for Tokyo drunk-driving hit-and-run

Kyodo

Hitomi Yoshizawa, a former member of the all-girl J-pop group Morning Musume, was sentenced Friday to two years in prison suspended for five years for injuring two people in a hit-and-run incident in September while driving under the influence of alcohol.

According to the ruling handed down at the Tokyo District Court, Yoshizawa, 33, ran a red light at a speed of 86 kilometers per hour on the morning of Sept. 6 in Nakano Ward, Tokyo, and hit a female cyclist and then a male pedestrian before fleeing the scene.

“Heavy concentrations of alcohol were detected in the defendant … she left the site of the accident without stopping to help the victims. Her criminal responsibility is fairly grave,” said Judge Takao Sato.

During the first hearing of the case, on Thursday, Yoshizawa’s defense lawyer had called for a suspended sentence, arguing that the former singer has promised not to obtain a driver’s license again even after the revocation period ends and that she and the two victims have already agreed to settle out of court.

Although the ruling handed down a suspended term as Yoshizawa’s counsel had hoped, the court opted for a five-year suspension — the longest permitted under the law — on the grounds that the defendant needs time to “deepen her remorse” for her actions.

On Thursday, prosecutors said Yoshizawa’s flight from the scene after ignoring the request of a witness for her to halt her vehicle “cannot be seen as anything other than an attempt to avoid criminal responsibility.”

Yoshizawa admitted during her first court hearing to the charges of causing injuries through negligence, hit-and-run and drunken driving.

Yoshizawa debuted in 2000 as a member of Morning Musume, known for its smash hit “Love Machine” that was released in 1999. After leaving the group in 2007, she became a public relations ambassador for her hometown of Miyoshi, Saitama Prefecture, but stepped down from the post and announced her retirement from the entertainment world following the driving incident.