In a decision with which even the defendant agreed, a Travis County jury found ex-Austin bar owner Shusaku Shiroyama guilty of two felonies related to the stabbing of local DJ Miguel Torres last year.
The verdict came down Thursday in state District Court and squared with Shiroyama’s expectations, who a day earlier testified that he was the masked man who showed up unannounced at Torres’ East Austin apartment. He invited the jury to hold him accountable, but to express mercy with his punishment.
Shiroyama, 32, said he was suffering from a manic episode when he repeatedly hit Torres with a dull samurai sword — and then stabbed him a dagger — to, he said, defend a woman who had accused Torres of beating her. Days before Shiroyama attacked Torres, the woman had ended her relationship with Torres and moved in with Shiroyama in his apartment on Red River Street. Torres said during the trial that he never hurt the woman.
After deliberating for more than six hours beginning Wednesday, the jury returned guilty verdicts on one count of burglary of a habitation with intent to commit aggravated assault and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Shiroyama had agreed he was guilty of those charges. However, the jury returned a not guilty verdict on an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge related to an allegation that Shiroyama tried to turn the sword on a man who is a friend of Torres and happened to enter Torres’ home during the attack.
Since many of the facts presented by prosecutors were undisputed by Shiroyama and his defense lawyer, the main question in the weeklong trial has been whether the jury will opt for prison or probation for his punishment. That answer could come down Friday after the defense wraps up with presenting evidence it believes shows probation is reasonable punishment.
The jury can return a sentence from five to 99 years in prison for the burglary conviction and two to 20 years for the aggravated assault conviction. However, they can choose to let Shiroyama serve the punishment on probation if the sentence is 10 years or less.
Pleading for leniency, Shiroyama took the stand Thursday and said his mental health has improved since he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after the incident. He said he’s taking medication regularly and working food service jobs while living with his parents in San Antonio. He said he had owned 30 percent of the Austin bar Moloko, but was pushed out by other owners after his arrest.
“I’m living the life of a 14-year-old,” he said. “It’s pretty sad, actually.”
He added he will come up with money to offset the medical bills incurred by Torres, who received 46 stitches as a result of the attack.
But prosecutor Andrea Austin asked for prison, saying, “The defendant is not suitable for probation.”
“The state has concern that the defendant will continue to be a threat to our community,” she said.
Shiroyama, who moved to New York from Japan as a toddler, testified he’s been told by an immigration attorney that a prison sentence will likely trigger his deportation. He said he does not have any family in Japan and does not speak Japanese.
Shiroyama also had to answer questions about an unrelated December 2016 incident in which a Fasten driver accused him of aiming a handgun at his head after a dispute about the route the driver was taking. The driver testified Thursday and described the gun. Shiroyama gave a similar account of the argument, but said he never threatened the man with a gun and does not own a gun.
Police charged Shiroyama with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in that case. The case is pending.