K-pop, Mandopop and other Asian pop

Jail sentence suspended for Japanese ex-pop idol Yoshizawa over drunken hit-and-run

  • She was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for five years, for injuring two people while driving under the influence of alcohol
PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2018, 1:44pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 November, 2018, 1:46pm

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, the 33-year-old ran a red light at 86km/h on the morning of September 6 in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward, 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.

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During the first hearing of the case on Thursday, Yoshizawa’s defence lawyer had called for a suspended sentence, saying the former singer has promised not to obtain a driving licence 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 the Yoshizawa side 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 fleeing from the scene after ignoring a call from a witness to halt her vehicle “cannot be seen as anything other than an attempt to avoid criminal responsibility.”

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

Yoshizawa debuted in 2000 as a member of Morning Musume, known for its smash hit “Love Machine” 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 incident.