FROM PRANKSTER TO PRISONER?

Japanese Cops Say Logan Paul Videos Broke the Law—and They’d Just Love to Nail Him

Video of a man who’d committed suicide was gruesome, and Paul’s subsequent clips show destruction of property and public indecency. All the evidence is right there on YouTube.

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

Logan Paul, YouTuber and professional troll, may have raised awareness of Japan’s suicide problem during his stay in our country unintentionally, but he seems to have broken several criminal laws intentionally. Or so the police see it. And if he returns to Japan, he won’t be welcome; he may even end up arrested and charged with several misdemeanors. He could be accused of more serious crimes as well.

Logan Paul—brother of viral king Jake Paul—is a superstar in the YouTube world. Blonde, square-jawed, 22 and buff, he has his own clothing brand, and regularly posts videos of his outrageous antics and slapstick comedy for eager fans. While in Japan, last year, he posted a shocking video showing the body of a dead man who had hanged himself.

After filming closeups of the man’s body, Paul uploaded a 15-minute video of the incident to YouTube on Dec. 31, with the title, “We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest….” In the video, Paul can be heard laughing.

It went viral and collected more than 6.3 million views before it was taken offline due to tremendous blowback.  Paul apologized and explained that while he was trying to raise suicide awareness, the video was in poor taste.

By filming the dead man, Paul gave huge offense to many people, not only in Japan, but he probably didn’t violate any criminal laws. The clips he’s posted since are a different matter.

Japanese police officers who have seen his videos taken in Japan found at least four crimes that he could be charged with: destruction of property, public indecency, interference with business operations, and numerous traffic violations.  “Plus he’s left video evidence, on his own YouTube channel,” said a former police detective.  “We haven’t seen such a dumb criminal since those idiots uploaded videos of themselves bullying a convenience store clerk and stealing cigarettes [in 2014].”

The original response in Japan to Logan Paul’s visit to and his filming a corpse at Aokigahara, “the suicide forest,” was muted. After publicizing the number of deaths there in years past, when there were often scores of suicides by hanging, drug overdose or other means, Japanese authorities have decided not to publicize the sea of trees on the slope of Mt. Fuji a favorite venue for auto-termination. So, conservative newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported that the U.S. media and public were offended by Paul’s actions while explaining his celebrity status to readers.

The more recent videos he released, however, raised the ire of many and captured the attention of the police as well. In those, Paul runs amok in a hotel and in the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo; he sleeps in the middle of the road, and strips in the middle of a crowded street. His actions rival those of the odious self-promoting pick-up artist Julien Blanc, who’s been banned from Japan.

“Logan has uploaded evidence of himself committing violations of several laws with apparent criminal intent,” says one former prosecutor who declined to go on the record. “Even if some of the events were staged, not all of them can have been, and if there were criminal complaints filed, the police would have to (probably happily) investigate.”

If other people see these videos and think they can get away with doing this in Japan, it won’t end well.
Taihei Ogawa, one of Japan's most decorated police officers

One of Japan’s most decorated former police officers, Taihei Ogawa, author of The Detective Who Pursued Burglars, was not reluctant to speak. In fact, in response to an email from The Daily Beast, he called enthusiastically around midnight Japan time to give his take on the matter.  

“This kind of behavior sets a terrible precedent before the 2020 Olympics. If other people see these videos and think they can get away with doing this in Japan, it won’t end well,” he cautions. “There are numerous possible illegal acts in his videos, but here are the ones I think are most likely to merit investigation and prosecution.”

Mr. Ogawa then dissected the clips from the standpoint of a veteran detective.

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“He throws a Japanese persimmon at the wall in his hotel and stains it. Not only a waste of a good persimmon but that’s destruction of property, one count. There are more.”

Ogawa notes several violations of the Road Traffic Laws.

“He runs a red light and puts his hands in a car stopped at the crossing. That’s a traffic violation–and one of many. Even tossing a ball into the basket of a moving bicycle is a traffic violation, which he does. Sleeping in the middle of the road—another. Throwing stuffed animals at a car, another.  He’s a traffic cop’s worst nightmare—or maybe a dream come true, if they really like their job.”

In addition to this, Paul may also be guilty of “forcible obstruction of business operations.”

“At the fish market, he jumps on board a conveyor cart without permission. He then jumps on the back of a truck. He takes raw fish and an octopus and pushes them against the windows at Shibuya Crossing’s video rental shop, Tsutaya, bothering customers. He carries the sea food into a western clothing store with him and touches the clothing―which is not only interfering with business, that could also be an additional count of destruction of property. The smell must have been awful.”

Ogawa notes that in practice police don’t investigate obstruction of business cases unless the victim has filed a criminal complaint. If public outcry was loud enough, though, the police might encourage the businesses to file.

Even without criminal charges, Paul still seems to be in trouble. “He pulls down his pants in the middle of the street and appears to be butt naked,” notes Ogawa. “There’s a mosaic covering the video, so it’s not clear if his chin-chin is showing, but if that was the case, that’s public obscenity.”

As Daily Beast readers know, Japan’s police take public indecency quite seriously. Megumi Igarashi, the so-called “vagina artist,” was nabbed and held in custody for weeks when she made 3D images of her genitalia.

In the videos, Paul also throws Pokemon balls at numerous people, including a policeman. “They’re soft balls. It would be hard to call that assault,” said one veteran cop. “However, it’s a jackass thing to do. And throwing them at a very tolerant police officer doesn’t win him points with us.”

Ogawa has some harsh words for Paul. “It’s not an issue that you’re Japanese or a foreigner—but that you’re breaking the law. And you’re showing these lawless acts to thousands of people who follow you on YouTube, which sets a bad example. Even if you did things as a prank, you damaged property, you bothered people, you obstructed the work of innocent people trying to make an honest living, you were rude to many and you were a pain in the ass. If the hotel wanted to press charges, any police department would follow up on it—and you have uploaded the evidence for them.”

You must be ashamed of him, as an American yourself.
Former Chiba Prefecture police detective Yukimasa Mori

Ogawa says that the small scale of Paul’s crimes would not likely result in an international arrest warrant. However, as long as Paul is not in Japan, “the statute of limitations doesn’t kick in. Ten years from now he could still be arrested.”

If Paul comes back, Ogawa predicts that it is highly likely he would be asked by the police to come in for questioning. If he refused to come in voluntarily, he’d probably be arrested. And once someone is caught up in the wheels of the Japanese justice system, where you often are presumed guilty until proven guilty, they don’t get out easily. He advises Paul that he should send his lawyers in advance to settle accounts, if he ever wants to come back to Japan.

Former Chiba Prefecture police detective Yukimasa Mori also believes that Paul could be—and probably should be—charged with multiple crimes, including defamation. “You must be ashamed of him, as an American yourself,” pointed out Mori. “If anyone files a criminal complaint, he can be arrested at the airport. Personally, I think the best thing to do is let him back in, follow him, and arrest him red-handed. He seems like an idiot; he’d break the law again.”

Yes, Japanese cops and former cops don’t like Paul-san.

Of course, some Japanese and some foreigners, like myself, who have lived here for decades just find Logan Paul’s antics wildly amusing. Really. He made our day.

In fact, Logan, we’d like to thank you for coming to our tiny island country and blessing us with your presence. We’ve all bought you a whole box of fine caffeinated Japanese chewing gum, Black-Black, as a gesture of our appreciation. Let us know where to send it.

And since it may be difficult for you to come back to Japan, can we suggest you take your humorous exploits next to another Asian country, like Singapore? They’d love you there and they have a great sense of humor.

Don’t forget the gum.