REDWOOD CITY -- A Japanese diplomat who was accused of stabbing his wife with a screwdriver and other abuse faces jail time after agreeing to a plea deal Thursday that included dismissal of the most serious charges.
Yoshiaki Nagaya, 33, bowed his head as, through an interpreter, he pleaded no contest to two felony counts of domestic violence in San Mateo County Superior Court. Judge Craig Parsons ordered him back Feb. 4 for sentencing.
It was not immediately clear if he would keep his job as vice consul at the Japanese Consulate in San Francisco.
As part of the deal deputy district attorney Tricia Povah dropped the remaining 10 felonies, including three counts of assault with a deadly weapon, attorneys said. One of those charges stemmed from allegations Yoshiaki Nagaya stabbed his wife Yuka Nagaya with a screwdriver. Nagaya initially faced 17 felonies, but the number was reduced after a preliminary hearing on the evidence.
Felony assault with a deadly weapon carries up to four years in prison and could mean a strike on the defendant's record. Instead, Nagaya's plea to the domestic violence counts leaves him facing a maximum of one year in county jail. With credit for good behavior, the time would actually be about six months.
Prosecutors said the abuse started in January 2011 while the couple lived in San Francisco and continued when they moved to San Bruno. They alleged a near constant barrage of abuse that included the stabbing, a beating that knocked out a tooth and an occasion where Nagaya allegedly tossed his wife from a moving car.
The wife documented the abuse with dozens of photos and recounted it unemotionally during a preliminary hearing. Though while under questioning from the defense she claimed not to remember details of statements she previously made to police.
Defense attorney Garrick Lew said doubts about wife Yuka Nagaya's credibility were raised after she was caught lying about one incident, which led to a felony charge being dismissed after the preliminary hearing. Also, some of the abuse appeared to be "mutual combat," where both sides took part in the violence.
Povah said she was content with the outcome and added, "I hope the victim will be happy with the resolution." Yuka Nagaya was not present in court Thursday.
Despite being a vice consul, Yoshiaki Nagaya was not comprehensively protected in this case by diplomatic immunity. The State Department issues varying levels of immunity to diplomats and Nagaya was protected from misdemeanors, Lew said. His status left prosecutors unable to move ahead with four misdemeanor counts in this case, he added. The charges had originally been felonies, but were reduced after the preliminary hearing.
Attorneys said the plea could mean trouble for Nagaya's immigration status, but they weren't sure Thursday exactly what would happen.
Nagaya remains out of custody on $350,000 bail.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.