Illegal alien apologizes for 'great sin'
HILO » Yasushi Kato apologized yesterday for stabbing his restaurant boss to death with a sushi knife in 2004 and declared that he had committed a "great sin."
Sushi chef Kato was convicted in October of manslaughter for the killing of Yukichi Ito, 61, owner of Hama Yu.
But widow Yoshiko Ito told Circuit Judge Glen Hara she still believes the 2004 killing of her husband was murder.
"I believe heaven is judging (Kato) and punished him," she said through a translator.
Hara sentenced Kato, 30, to 20 years in prison, saying any lesser sentence would "denigrate the seriousness and senselessness" of the killing.
Defense attorney Melody Parker had asked for probation. Since Kato is an illegal alien, probation would result in him being deported to Japan, where he would face a "marginal existence," she said.
Hara rejected the request, telling Kato his conduct had "catastrophic" consequences.
The sentencing involved attempts to do justice according to both American and Japanese standards.
Speaking through a translator, Kato made a lengthy statement only after Yoshiko Ito told the court that Kato had not apologized. "He never showed us he feels guilty feelings," she said.
Hara said there was "something of a culture clash" in the case. Defendants in America are told not to apologize while a case is pending, he said. "I understand it is an important part of the process in Japan when a crime has been committed," he said.
Kato also portrayed himself as a good person in bad circumstances. Living in California, he had to hide from immigration officials but never committed crimes, he said.
Taking a job at Yukichi Ito's restaurant at the Waikoloa Resort, Kato said he suffered bad working conditions and isolation. At one time, Ito drugged him, he said. On the day before the killing, Ito appeared to threaten him with a statement that Kato might be killed.
But Deputy Prosecutor Sandra Freitas questioned his truthfulness. He claimed to come to America in 1998 but actually came in 1997, she said. He claimed to come to study English, but he never made progress in the language.
On the day of the killing, he left Ito in one room of the restaurant, went to the kitchen to obtain a knife, then returned and stabbed Ito "multiple, multiple times," she said.