Sushi chef faces 20 years for killing
Prosecutors on the Big Isle had sought a murder conviction
HILO » A Big Island jury has found sushi chef Yasushi Kato guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter in the stabbing death last year of the owner of the Hama Yu Japanese Restaurant in the Waikoloa Resort.
Kato was charged with second-degree murder. The prosecution said Kato planned the killing of his boss, Yukichi Ito, at the restaurant.
Juror Lillian Lee said the jury returned a manslaughter verdict because they found convincing psychiatric testimony that Kato suffered from extreme mental or emotional disturbance at the time of the killing.
Kato, 29, from Tokyo, testified through a translator that Ito, 61, was extremely demanding and made repeated, vague references to someone dying.
Circuit Judge Glenn Hara set sentencing for Jan. 12. Kato faces a maximum sentence of 20 years.
The jury took 3 1/2 days to reach a verdict. Juror Lee said that was because jurors were being extremely thorough, not because of any deadlock.
Kato testified he came to the United States on a student visa but eventually remained in the country illegally, working as a sushi chef in several Los Angeles restaurants.
In December 2003 he got a job at Hama Yu. From the beginning, Ito told him someone had died in the area, and constantly urged him to work harder.
On March 22, 2004, the day before the killing, Ito said, "Someone did die over here. Do you want to be like that and get killed?" Kato testified.
Kato said he took home his sushi knife with a 14-inch blade because he was afraid.
The next day at work, shortly before 5 p.m., he felt extreme anger and suffered a "whiteout" during part of the time he attacked Ito, he testified.
But Deputy Prosecutor Sondra Freitas said Kato told psychiatrists who examined him that the day before the knife attack, he wanted to kill Ito.
On the day of the attack, Kato sat in first one place and then another at the restaurant where he could watch Ito. He removed his knife from its sheath and attacked Ito from behind.
The attack included wounds on Ito's neck, body, arms, hands and legs, Freitas said.