Fukusaku to remain behind bars until at least 2034

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The first Japanese national to be extradited to the United States and convicted of murder will not see a change in his minimum term, according to his attorney, Myles Breiner.  Breiner asked the Hawaii Paroling Authority to allow his client, Raita Fukusaku, 47, to get out of prison halfway through his original sentence of 40 years behind bars.

But Breiner said Thursday the parole board ruled that his minimum sentence will remain 40 years, meaning Fukusaku will not be eligible for parole until 2034.

"The basis for the new minimum terms was not clearly explained and could result in another appeal," Breiner told Hawaii News Now in an email.

"I no like you think that I'm the non-responsibility guy," said Fukusaku April 1, as he addressed three parole board members via video conference from Saguaro Prison in Arizona, where he is serving two back-to-back 20-year sentences.

In 1995, he was convicted of killing famous Japanese fortune teller Kototome Fujita and her son, Goro when prosecutors said his attempts to extort $20,000 from Mrs. Fujita failed.

The case made headlines in Hawaii and Japan because it involved a famous fortune teller whose clients included four Japanese prime ministers, business leaders and organized crime figures.

"I didn't kill my friend and his mother," Fukusaku told the parole board members.

Fukusaku and his lawyers said he wasn't the murderer, but was coerced into helping cover-up the killings because he was under pressure from Japanese underworld figures in the Yakuza.

"What I did is I didn't stop them and I couldn't save them.  Is my responsibility, them, is my mistake of my whole life.  Every single day I think about them," Fukusaku said April 1.  Fukusaku did not say who coerced him.

A Hawaii state jury found him guilty of murder in 1995 without deciding whether he was the principal killer or an accomplice.

"The record was not clear as to what the jury determined. The jury could not and was not presented with the ultimate question of whether Mr. Fukusaku shot anyone through the heart," said Gary Modafferi, one of Fukusaku's two defense attorneys.  Modafferi traveled from Las Vegas where he is a trial attorney specializing in criminal defense.

Both victims were shot.  Kototome Fujita's penthouse apartment across from Ala Moana Center was burned and firefighters removed her body from her burning unit.  Goro Fuijta's body was found in his burning car along Kapahulu Avenue.

Senior Deputy City Prosecutor Darrell Wong said, "You know, under the law, whether you're a principal or you're an accomplice, you're equally guilty and you get the same sentence."

"Whether Mr. Fukusaku was the actual shooter or was just a party to it, the crime is still equally heinous, equally callous and shows a disregard on his part," Wong added.

Wong said Fukusaku's minimum sentence should remain at 40 years, 20 years for each murder count.  He asked the parole board to increase his term to 60 to 80 years behind bars.  But that would conflict with an agreement between the Hawaii Paroling Authority and Fukusaku to grant him a new minimum sentencing hearing and agree not to increase his minimum sentence to more than 20 years for each count.  The agreement settled a petition Fukusaku's attorneys filed in 2007, saying an increased 50-year minimum term was "arbitrary and capricious."

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