Yoshiaki Nagaya might have abused his wife, but he also might not be quite the monster portrayed by prosecutors, according to Nagaya’s attorney, Garrick Lew.
At one time, the 33-year-old Japanese diplomat based in San Francisco faced 17 felonies in connection with a string of attacks on his wife during their first 18 months of marriage. But on Thursday, Nagaya reached a plea bargain that has him facing no more than a year in San Mateo County Jail. The agreement included a no-contest plea to two felony domestic violence charges.
The San Bruno resident is expected to be sentenced Feb. 4.
Prosecutors described Nagaya as vicious to his wife. The allegations, which span January 2011 to March of this year, included separate incidents in which Nagaya stabbed his wife’s hand with a screwdriver, knocked out her tooth and tossed her from their car. Other times, prosecutors said, he “stomped on her.”
Lew, who disputes most of those claims, said the relatively light sentence his client will end up receiving reflects that the charges were overblown. The evidence shows the couple, who married after only four months of dating, hated one another and often engaged in “mutual combat,” Lew said.
Video evidence of a police interview with Nagaya’s wife showed that “all their fighting in 2011 was mutual combat,” Lew said. However, the wife’s attorney, who had been translating for her client, did not tell that to police.
“That is all on video, audio, recorded,” Lew said.
He also said the screwdriver was actually a “mini-screwdriver” that both husband and wife used to force open the lock of their home.
“They had a practice of locking each other out,” Lew said.
And the knocked-out tooth? Dentists claimed it was most likely from decay, Lew said.
Before he was arrested, Nagaya reportedly had moved into his office in San Francisco to stay away from his wife. She threatened to call police and report him as missing, Lew said.
After he went home, Lew said, a shoving match ensued — and that’s when Nagaya went too far, Lew said.
“[Nagaya] did the wrong thing by forcibly pulling her out of the car,” he said.
Lew added, “I think without question it was a bad relationship. Unfortunately, neither one of them decided to break it off and get a divorce.”
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Thursday that his office stands by the allegations and had been prepared to go to trial.