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30 Years of Prison Looming, Ippei Mizuhara Bombarded With ‘Betrayal’ Remarks By Japanese Journalists, Supporting Shohei Ohtani

Published 05/15/2024, 12:50 PM EDT

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via Reuters

Shohei Ohtani is undoubtedly the biggest and most loved star in Japan today. From young kids to elders, his fanbase has crossed all boundaries. Now imagine betraying this massive star – that can instantly turn anyone into the biggest villain, right? His former interpreter-cum-friend Ippei Mizuhara’s heel turn could prove to be one of the biggest in baseball. 

Ever since the revelation that Mizuhara had connections with a bookie came to the surface, the media has been trying to get a glimpse of the fallen hero. However, when reports of the alleged “theft” he committed against Shohei Ohtani came into the picture, fans’ adoration turned into hatred. What’s even more shocking is that the Japanese reporters too might have begun to dislike the former interpreter.

In a video, that is going viral on X, Mizuhara can be seen surrounded by media. The interpreter was on his way to court when the Japanese media surrounded him. Then Mizuhara was bombarded with some tough questions. However, the one that might have stung the most was when he was asked how he “betrayed” Shohei Ohtani – the man who trusted him the most. 

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While Mizuhara didn’t answer any questions, these words show the sentiment around him in Japan. Nobody likes betrayal but for the Japanese fans, this feels personal. They’ve seen Ohtani grow up from a talented teenager to a world-beating athlete. To have such a deep connection with an athlete means that his wins are your wins and his pain is your pain. Perhaps that’s why Mizuhara is being subjected to such scrutiny. 

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However, this raises another question – why was Mizuhara in court? The former interpreter was there as a formality. With a 30-year prison sentence looming over his head, he’s trying to reduce it by any means necessary.

Ippei Mizuhara’s not-guilty plea could just be a formality 

Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter’s reason for going to court was to plead not guilty on one count each for bank fraud and subscribing to a false tax return. Per ESPN, this was an expected procedure for Ippei Mizuhara. Even though the interpreter had agreed to a plea deal with the plaintiffs, a not-guilty plea was necessary.

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Though Mizuhara’s attorney declined to comment on Tuesday, Michael G. Freedman did say that the former planned to plead guilty in the future. Mizuhara could be looking at a lengthy sentence. Bank Fraud charges carry a maximum 30-year term while the false tax return charge has up to 3 years of federal prison term. However, Mizuhara might be able to avoid some of those years.

Most reports indicate that Mizuhara has agreed to a plea deal wherein he’ll be paying restitution of just under $17 million to Shohei Ohtani. Similarly, he’d be paying $1 million to the IRS. However, there’s still unclarity regarding the timeline of that process. So at least for now, Mizuhara’s troubles haven’t ended yet.

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Written by

Sanskar Dubey

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Sanskar Dubey is an MLB writer at EssentiallySports. From writing various aspects of baseball like MLB Rule Modifications to diving deep into the world of minor and major leagues, Sanskar covers it all. He loves to write for the sport when there is a hot tussle between the National League and American League throughout the season.
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Edited by

Suman Varandani