Japanese Dignitary Charged in Theft
A grand theft charge was filed Thursday against a Japanese dignitary who was freed from custody last month and had his case temporarily dropped after Mayor Tom Bradley called airport police to discuss the case.
The city attorney’s office filed the misdemeanor charge against Yukio Umemura, former chairman of the Nagoya City Assembly, after a Los Angeles Police Department investigation of his April 14 arrest for allegedly stealing two Gucci wallets and a leather purse, valued at $450, from a gift shop at Los Angeles International Airport.
The case initially was dropped by airport police after Bradley, who had met with Umemura and exchanged gifts the day before his arrest, contacted an airport police watch commander. Also, one of the mayor’s aides, Jeff Matsui, met with police officials and a representative of the gift shop operator, Duty Free Shoppers Ltd.
Duty Free officials at first wanted to prosecute Umemura, according to police records, but then declined after meeting with Matsui. Tapes of telephone conversations showed that an airport police sergeant, while consulting a Los Angeles police watch commander, agonized over how they could release Umemura on a potential felony complaint without violating department procedures.
Investigative reports released Thursday show that Matsui told police that he went to the airport to “assist the suspect.” Matsui also told police that when he informed Bradley of the incident, the mayor “groaned.”
In his call to the airport, Bradley advised a watch commander that “this incident could be very embarrassing for Umemura in his country,” according to the reports.
A Duty Free security official told investigators that a company vice president--after being advised that Bradley had inquired about the release of Umemura--directed him “to cooperate with the mayor and not to file charges.” The vice president, Bill Tompkins, told police his decision was “in no way influenced by the mayor or anyone else,” the reports show.
No further investigation of the actions of Bradley or Matsui is anticipated, said Deputy City Atty. Mary Clare Molidor. She said a “full evaluation of everything that happened at the airport that day found no criminal conduct on the part of the mayor or anyone associated with the mayor.”
Bradley and Matsui have declined to discuss the case.
Bill Chandler, the mayor’s press spokesman, said Thursday that Bradley did not “suggest, urge or pressure anyone not to prosecute.” Chandler said that the mayor “simply made an inquiry to obtain the facts.”
“The decisions in this case have always been entirely up to the authorities involved,” he said.
Umemura, who could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted, has denied any wrongdoing, although he did resign as chairman of the Nagoya Assembly, a position similar to city council president. Umemura has returned to Japan and his Los Angeles attorney was not available for comment Thursday.
Umemura would not necessarily have to return to Los Angeles to stand trial in a misdemeanor case.
Meanwhile, Bradley is leaving today for a city-financed trade trip to Nagoya, one of Los Angeles’ sister cities, and other stops in the Far East. Chandler said the mayor would be dedicating a Hollywood-style Walk of Fame in Nagoya, where Umemura had served on the sister city committee. Chandler said Bradley plans no meeting with Umemura.