On August 24, the Fukuoka District Court handed down a sentence of death on Satoru Nomura, 74. Nomura, head of the Kudo-kai crime syndicate based in Kitakyushu City, was found guilty of one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder. None of the targets were members of rival gangs, but were ordinary citizens. The first involved the fatal 1998 shooting of an ex-boss of a fisheries cooperative who exerted influence over port construction projects.
Nomura was also found guilty of being behind a 2014 attack on a relative of the abovementioned murder victim; a 2013 knife attack against a nurse at a clinic where he was being treated; and the 2012 non-fatal shooting of a former police official who had investigated the Kudo-kai.
The evidence against Nomura was essentially circumstantial, and imposing the death penalty on a gang leader in Japan is unprecedented. The Kudo-kai, however, has been accorded the singular designation of being referred to as a "grossly vicious group" by the National Police Agency, so threats from their leader are not to be taken lightly.
Also on the day Nomura was sentenced, his second in command, Fumio Tanoue, 65, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Upon hearing the sentence, Nomura allegedly said to Judge Ben Adachi, Anta, shogai kono koto kokai suru yo! ("You'll regret this for as long as you live.")
Nomura's second-in-command Fumio Tanoue couldn't resist getting in a dig of his own, telling the judge, Tokyo no saibankan ni natte yokatta ne ("It's a good thing you'll be working in Tokyo").
Should Judge Adachi worry? While acts of violence against Japanese judges are rare, it should be remembered that the first attack using sarin nerve gas, in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, on June 27, 1994, targeted the dormitory of judges who were hearing a property dispute involving the Aum Supreme Truth cult. Two of three judges were sickened, forcing the hearing to be postponed.
In a regular column in Nikkan Gendai (Aug 30) called "Heads and Tails of Legal Knowledge," attorney Hiroki Takahashi writes, "I think these are extremely scary remarks."
Takahashi refers to the term sontaku to describe how Nomura's underlings may have acted pre-emptively to ingratiate him, without needing specific orders to carry out the attacks. Or in other words, even without a clear set of orders, underlings who belong to the gang will get the message. So it stands to reason that the man at the top bears responsibility for their acts, and hence the stern sentence.
The court's ruling for the death penalty is based on the same logic. Takahashi points out that even during the course of Nomura's trial, members of the Kudo-kai were placed under arrest for intimidating a witness. And although the two defendants were forbidden from communicating with rank-and-file gang members during their trial, the act of witness intimidation clearly indicates that even without specific orders, gang bosses can convey their unspoken wishes through sontaku.
The word sontaku became popularized in the media in 2017 after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife became embroiled in a scandal involving the operator of a nationalist school.
In his own defense, of course, Nomura can always explain that he actually meant no harm to the judge, but only that the judge would regret sentencing an innocent man to the gallows, i.e., with no threat implied.
Likewise, the possibility could be raised that Tanoue's remarks in the court could be interpreted as only meaning, "The presiding judge is moving to Tokyo. Make him pay for it."
"The judge bears the responsibility for the conduct of the trial and because he was the one who handed down the ruling, even if in error, nothing should be allowed that would hamper his life, his physical safety or his private affairs," Takahashi asserts. "I believe the police organization, and the nation as a whole, need to put in place measures to ensure that judges will be safeguarded."© Japan Today