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Ex-J-pop idol Yoshizawa handed suspended sentence over hit-and-run

In this Sept. 27, 2018 file photo, Hitomi Yoshizawa is released on bail from Harajuku Police Station in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- The Tokyo District Court on Nov. 30 handed Hitomi Yoshizawa, a former member of the all-female J-pop group Morning Musume, a suspended prison sentence after finding her guilty of injuring two people in a hit-and-run accident while driving under the influence.

The court sentenced Yoshizawa, 33, to two years' imprisonment, suspended for five years, meaning she will avoid prison if she does commit another crime within the next half decade.

Yoshizawa was convicted of driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol in Tokyo's Nakano Ward on the morning of Sept. 6. According to her indictment, she drove at 86 kilometers per hour -- roughly 20 kph over the local speed limit -- and ran a red light. Her vehicle collided with a man and woman crossing the intersection but did not stop and provide aid, and fled the scene.

Yoshizawa expressed regret to the court for her actions, saying she should have refrained from drinking as she knew that she would be driving the following morning.

In their closing statements, public prosecutors said Yoshizawa bore a heavy responsibility as she had been driving with an alcohol level five times over the limit. Her lawyers stated that she had reached a settlement over the accident.

Yoshizawa joined Morning Musume in 2000 and left the group in 2007. Following her latest arrest and indictment, she announced that she would retire from the entertainment world.

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