National / Crime & Legal

Japanese actress Erika Sawajiri given suspended term for drug possession

Kyodo

The Tokyo District Court on Thursday sentenced popular actress Erika Sawajiri to 18 months in prison, suspended for three years, for possessing illegal drugs.

In handing down the ruling, the court said possession of MDMA and LSD carries great criminal responsibility.

At the same time, Judge Toshifumi Takioka said Sawajiri “pleaded guilty and showed remorse. Her doctor and older brother have also offered to support her.”

Prosecutors had sought an 18-month prison term for the 33-year-old, who was arrested in November on charges of drug possession, while her defense team asked for a suspended sentence.

In the first hearing of her trial last Friday, Sawajiri offered an apology and said she “does not plan to return to work as an actress.”

The prosecutors argued in the trial that Sawajiri had been using illegal drugs since she was around 19 years old, and the likelihood of her committing the same crime is high.

The defense team for Sawajiri, who has appeared in a number of films, TV dramas and commercials, argued that there is no possibility of her committing similar offenses in the future as she has been receiving medical treatment since she was released on bail in December.

According to the ruling, Sawajiri was in possession of 0.19 gram of powder containing MDMA, 0.6 gram of liquid containing LSD, and a 0.08-gram piece of paper laced with LSD at her home in Tokyo on Nov. 16.

Sawajiri, who has also had success as a singer, is perhaps best known in other parts of Asia for “1 Liter of Tears,” a 2005 TV drama in which she played the heroine suffering from the intractable disease spinocerebellar degeneration.

For her role as an ethnic Korean girl living in Japan in “Pacchigi!” — directed by Kazuyuki Izutsu and released in 2005 — she was awarded the best newcomer award at the Japan Academy Film Prize.

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