A tour bus driver who caused a crash that killed three Japanese tourists last year was spared a lengthy prison term Friday when a judge sentenced him to less than a year in jail for his role in the wreck.
Yasushi Mikuni was facing the prospect of 15 years behind bars, but instead got just under a year in jail and three years of probation. Judge Michael Westfall also ordered the 26-year-old Japanese student to pay restitution to each of the crash victims and court fines.
"I think this was a great outcome," Mikuni's Las Vegas-based defense attorney Garrett Ogata said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I think the judge saw how Yasushi presented himself at each and every court hearing and even said that he handles himself with remorse."
Ogata said Mikuni, who sobbed through Friday's hearing, was so deeply affected by the accident that he went to the crash site with his father and brother to pray for the victims and their families.
The 26-year-old driver originally was charged with 10 felonies but pleaded guilty in May to three felony counts of operating a vehicle negligently, causing serious injury or death.
Utah Highway Patrol investigators said that on the day of the crash, Mikuni, a Japanese citizen living in Las Vegas on a U.S. work and education visa, was driving on little sleep after a long work day the day before.
Tests showed he also had marijuana in his system. Investigators said they didn't believe Mikuni was impaired while driving, but that he was sleep-deprived.
The bus carrying 14 Japanese tourists was headed from Nevada to national parks in Utah and Arizona on Aug. 9, 2010, when it rolled on Interstate 15. Three died and 11 others were injured, including Mikuni.
Judge Michael Westfall sentenced Mikuni to 15 years in prison Friday but then suspended most of the sentence. Court records show Mikuni will spend 363 days in the Iron County Jail.