HYOGO (TR) – Ryutaro Nonomura was a low-profile politician when he was elected to the Hyogo assembly in 2011, and he probably would have stayed that way — until he broke down into a blubbering mess at a press conference in 2014 over his misuse of official money, giving netizens and comedians endless fodder as news channels replayed the footage for days.
The Kobe District Court sentenced Nonomura, 49, a former Hyogo prefectural assemblyman, to three years in prison, suspended for four years, for false business expense claims totaling 9.13 million yen, the Asahi Shimbun reports (July 5).
Presiding judge Takeshi Samo ruled that the “prefecture’s assembly and its citizens were betrayed by Nonomura’s greed.”
According to the ruling, Nonomura filed 344 one-day business trips to destinations including Tokyo, Fukuoka and onsen hot spring resorts and forged documents claiming expenses for items like postage cards and stamps between 2011 and 2013.
Nonomura wrote an apology letter admitting to the charges while an investigation took place, but reneged on his statement during his first trial in January by telling the court that the letter “was a lie.” He repeatedly insisted that he had “no memory” regarding the charges.
“It’s incomprehensible that not a single recollection can be made regarding a large number of business trips to specific areas,” Judge Samo said. “Based on [the defendant’s] condition at the trial, there are no signs of severe mental or physical disabilities.”
The court took into consideration the fact that Nonomura resigned from his post and repaid the 18.34 million yen in funds he received since he was elected in 2011.
Nonomura claimed he had “no recollection” of the business trips in numerous wordings a total of 90 times across all of his court appearances, which according to Nikkan Sports prompted the court to rule that the defendant “shows no signs of remorse.”
The court did note, however, that he was “widely reported by the media and socially punished.”
Nonomura inspired countless memes for his memorable antics at his viral press conference — including his cupping of his ear, later parodied in an adult video featuring Reiko Kobayakawa — but he hardly moved during the latest hearing.
Wearing a white t-shirt and black pants, a balding Nonomura seemed weary with an unkempt stubble. He remained restless since he was admitted to the court.
When asked by the judge if his name was Ryutaro Nonomura, he silently nodded.
Nonomura shuffled away from his seat, hands slightly trembling, after the ruling was read out. He buried his face in a paper bag as he left the court without saying a word.