Broken lamp leads to California student jailed in Tokyo for nearly 9 months

Posted at 11:13 PM, Jan 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-23 23:13:01-05

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A California college student has been jailed in Japan for almost nine months.

Leah Smith says her son, Julian Adame, was doing some traveling after studying abroad when he never showed up to a planned trip to Thailand to visit a friend. That friend got worried but as it turns out, he was in jail in Tokyo.

Smith has been pleading for help to free her son.

"I'm losing it now at this point too," Smith told KTXL. "I just want him home. This is ridiculous, he's not a criminal."

Smith says the U.S. embassy in Tokyo told her it started during a night of bar hopping.

"He's being woken up in another bar that he doesn't remember going to and being told that he broke a lamp and he has to pay $1,000," Smith said.

Smith said her son got scared and tried to run off to get help.

"At one point the police officer grabbed his arm and it snapped back and hit the officer in his chin," Smith said.

She says he's now facing a charge for "obstruction of the performance of official duties." He's pleading guilty, prepared to pay a fine, but Smith says the case keeps getting pushed back.

"It's just not fair," she said. "It's a simple case. Let's just get it done."

Adame is a University of Redlands student and was traveling on his own after completing a study abroad program. A university spokesperson sent a statement to KTXL Tuesday, saying:

"We are aware that Julian Adame remains detained in Japan. We have been in contact with local and international law enforcement agencies in Japan to ask for status, express our concern, and offer our assistance."

Adame's friend Kate Emmons planned to meet in him Thailand after his trip to Japan. Instead, she went to see him in jail.

"We just looked at one other and cried and just basically wept for 10 minutes," Emmons told KTXL over the phone.

Months later, Emmons and Smith remain determined to bring Adame home.

Smith says the U.S. embassy in Tokyo is forwarding letters from her son. One of them reads, "I love you so much and think about you all the time." He also said, "I’m scared and want to come home."

KTXL reached out to the State Department, who responded Wednesday morning:

We can confirm that U.S. citizen Julian Adame was arrested in Tokyo on May 22, 2018.  The safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas is one of our highest priorities.  We are providing all appropriate consular assistance to Mr. Adame.  Consular officers are in contact with Mr. Adame’s family and friends, and visit him at the Tokyo Detention Center regularly.

In the meantime, Emmons is raising money to cover Adame's fines and flights through aGoFundMe page.