Some habits die hard, as with this octogenarian thief.
Note: The defendant’s name was unreported so we will refer to him using the pseudonym “Yuji”
Yuji was born in 1934 and spent his adolescence in war-torn Japan, there he dropped out of middle school and picked up various part-time jobs at bakeries and construction sites here and there or got money as a day laborer. However, his employment never lasted long and as Yuji said, “most people around me spent their lives as thieves rather than get a job.”
So he did too, when his financial situation called for it. He would sneak into homes that he thought were empty and take what he could. However, the homes didn’t always turn out to actually be empty, and Yuji caught his share of knife slashes for going where he shouldn’t have.
Earlier this month, during a criminal case against Yuji for armed robbery, the prosecution and defense suggested appropriate penalties for his crime. Yuji’s lawyers argued that he was a victim of difficult living conditions, and considering his age of 83, he should be given a lenient sentence.
Meanwhile, Yuji sat in his wheelchair, pale and thin, wearing a green short-sleeved shirt and navy slacks. The prosecutor told the judge that the defendant’s true motives were unclear and he was very likely to re-offend, but considering his age, a one-year prison sentence would be sufficient.
“What?!” shouted Yuji suddenly, “Did he say two years?!”
The courtroom officer guarding Yuji leaned closer to his ear and shouted “One year in prison!”
“Oh,” said Yuji who then bowed his head and shouted over to the prosecutor, “Thank you!”
So what led to Yuji’s most recent trouble with the law? On 13 June, he rode the train into Osaka City as part of his latest criminal scheme. His heart was pounding at the thought of getting caught and going back to prison, but he was committed to going through with it. After getting off he walked into a credit union. They have less staff than banks and are easier targets.
He reached into his bag and pulled out a pair of scissors, nine centimeters (3.5 inches) in length. To make them appear more like a knife, he wrapped a towel around the handle. He then walked up to a female clerk who was working the floor and thrust the scissors against her midsection.
“Hand over the money,” he demanded of her.
Looking at Yuji’s frail physique, the woman was able to remain calm and began to explain the situation to everyone in the room: “Someone call the manager. This man has a knife.”
The manager arrived and began negotiating with Yuji, asking “What’s the matter?”
“Gimmie the money,” ordered Yuji using that less than perfect wording robbers often do.
“Oh, do you have an account with us?” asked the manager, “If you want to discuss it, let’s go over here.” He gestured towards an open consultation area.
Yuji clarified this threat, “I want your money. You know, from the credit union.”
“Alright, let’s go over there and talk about it then,” insisted the manager.
Feeling that would be the only way to get things moving, Yuji agreed and had a seat. However, just as he thought things were working out for him, a police officer arrived on scene and arrested him, leading to his trial this month.
Inside the courtroom, Yuji was unable to walk properly and his legs trembled shortly after standing. However, he managed to do so while addressing the judge.
“Because, I’m older I hope you can speak up,” he requested, “I’m 83. These ears ain’t what they used to be.”
On the stand, the prosecutor asked Yuji, “Did you really think you could get money by threatening that woman?”
Yuji pondered the question for a moment and answered confidently, “I thought I had an 80-percent chance of pulling it off.”
Later, when asked why he did it, Yuji answered “I wanted to eat better food and have fun with girls.”
Image: Wikipedia/ Kamagasaki450
Yuji’s current financial situation began five years ago, when he was released from prison from one of his previous 22 convictions. In order to secure a place to live, he signed up for welfare and was granted 110,000 yen (US$1,000) per month, about 60,000 of which went directly towards his rent, helper staff, and lunch. The remaining money was divided and given to him each day in portions of about 1,300 yen (US$12).
For a man with no family and living on his own, that’s enough to live comfortably on day to day. However, when he has the money for it, one of Yuji’s favorite pastime has been to partake of Osaka’s adult entertainment facilities. With his current finances, to do that just once he would have to scrimp and save for months.
And so Yuji decided it would make more sense to lay it all on the line and try to get the money with one big score, which resulted in his attempted robbery of the credit union.
On 10 August, the Osaka District Court judge handed down a sentence of eight months in prison.
“Is it one year?!” shouted Yuji.
The judge repeated himself more loudly, “Eight months!”
No appeal was filed.