Bizarre cult boss gets reduced sentence

Mainichi Daily News/June 27, 2003

One of Japan's most bizarre murderers had his sentence slashed by more than half after the Tokyo High Court ruled that he had not initially intended to kill his victim.

The court cut by eight years the 15-year sentence the Chiba District Court had handed out to Koji Takahashi, a self-professed guru and leader of the bizarre cult, Life Space.

"Takahashi realized that if he left the man alone he would probably die, but feared that going back on his word would result in a loss of authority, so he left him for dead. It was an irresponsible crime brought on by selfishness," Presiding Judge Masaru Suda told the court. "He didn't particularly want the victim to die and it is not possible to say that he acted with malicious intent."

Takahashi has already appealed the ruling.

Court records said that during July 1999, Takahashi felt that an intravenous drip being used on company employee Shinichi Kobayashi was endangering the man's life. Takahashi ordered Kobayashi's family to remove him from the hospital in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, where he was being treated following a stroke. The guru instructed the family to care for Kobayashi in a Chiba hotel.

But instead of offering needed medical treatment, the cultists merely sat beside Kobayashi and patted his head.

Kobayashi died after choking on phlegm caught in his throat.

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