AoD Corp owner cleared of charges; announces plans for Rogue Islands branch

Paragon City, RI (Reuters) – Yoshito Sanders, owner of the multinational AoD Corp, was formally cleared of all criminal charges by the Rhode Island Superior Court this morning. Sanders had been originally convicted of counts of attempted murder, illegal cloning, espionage, illegal Rikti experimentation, illegal genetic tampering, misuse of government funds, and escaping prison. Following a successful appeal to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, a retrial was scheduled to introduce new and conflicting evidence. The following five years were marked by constant legal wrangling between AoD Corp and Longbow-associated state prosecutors. The actual trial finally began March 21st earlier this year. Sanders was not present at the trial, having resided in the Rogue Isles for several years.

In his initial statements from the Longbow base Agincourt in the Rogue Islands, Sanders expressed profound relief at the verdict. “At long last, my nightmare is over,” Sanders said over a satellite feed. “I always knew I was innocent of all charges, but I had begun to despair that I'd always be a wanted man.”

Sanders continued by saying, “My first order of business will be to go home and spend time with my wife [AoD Corp CEO Kate Murphy-Sanders]. Living without her has been the hardest part of this entire ordeal. After that, I have plans to make AoD Corp a permanent part of the Rogue Islands, but such things can wait for now.”

Legal analysts point to several key arguments made by AoD Corp lawyer Barry Laham as vital in securing the overturned verdict. On the count of attempted murder, Laham managed to have the court throw out the initial testimony of superhero Holy Evil, the alleged victim. Longbow lawyers attempted to get Holy Evil's testimony to stand, even after the superhero admitted to the court that he was the aggressor and Sanders's actions were “purely defensive.”

Longbow argued that Holy Evil was coerced into retracting his previous testimony, but were unable to convince the courts that a man who had survived a nuclear strike was capable of being coerced by “any known physical means.” Inspections by PPD psychics also proved there was no mental coercion involved.

Secondly, Laham successfully argued that AoD Corp was acting under a government contract to study Rikti technology in respect to potential cloning applications. Though Longbow lawyers claimed the contract was to specifically focus on animal and plant testing, Laham claimed that the wording was ambiguous enough to allow human experimentation provided all subjects were willing participants.

Finally, Laham successfully argued that Sanders was not a willing participant in the prison riot that ended in his escape, but rather a target of kidnapping by agents of the criminal organization Arachnos. Longbow long asserted that the supposed kidnapper was actually a mercenary hired by Sanders and that he went willingly with Arachnos to escape confinement.

The decision was read to Kate Murphy-Sanders, who was visibly emotional during the proceedings. She spoke briefly to the media afterward, saying, “It's been a long, hard battle to have Yoshito cleared. I'm just thankful I'll get to see him again.” The spouses have not seen each other since Yoshito Sanders's original conviction.

Sanders was originally arrested on August 26, 2005, in connection with the attempted murder of popular hero Holy Evil, who until then was believed by the public to be Sanders himself. Unbeknownst to all but a select few AoD Corp employees who spearheaded the secret project, Sanders had cloned himself a year prior in an effort to escape terminal cancer. When medical advances following the First Rikti War provided a cure, Sanders reconditioned the project.

The result was Holy Evil, who took on the alias used by Sanders in his former professional wrestling career. For nearly a year, Holy Evil prowled the streets of Paragon City, slowly gaining recognition and fame that was bolstered by the aggressive marketing campaign devised by the Army of Darkness of Justice, AoD Corp's super-powered talent agency. Holy Evil was publicly identified as Yoshito Sanders and believed himself to be the man in actuality, having gained superpowers as a result of “training with Tibetan monks.”

Following a botched experiment to test the extent of Holy Evil's invulnerability, he discovered that he was a clone and his memories had been implanted. In his initial claim, he was attacked by Sanders while investigating this discovery.

Sanders was initially convicted of all charges based on the testimony of Holy Evil and sentenced to 25 years in the Zigursky Penitentiary. After a few days in the prison, Arachnos attacked and Sanders escaped along with dozens of super-powered inmates. Security footage was mostly disrupted by Arachnos operatives, though eye-witness accounts claim Sanders was seen in the company of a man in fatigues wielding an assault rifle. Though the incident was treated as an escape by Paragon City officials, AoD Corp long insisted that Sanders had been kidnapped.

However, Holy Evil later changed his story to claim he attacked an AoD Corp laboratory and assaulted Sanders in a “confused rage.” He further claimed that the method Sanders used to defend himself “never posed a serious threat to my health” and that his original story was borne out of “a desire to be the real Yoshito Sanders and not just a copy.” His admission followed “intense counseling and deep soul searching.”

Continued surveillance of Sanders was conducted by Longbow operatives operating in the Rogue Isles. Though Sanders was apparently allowed freedom of movement on the island, AoD Corp claimed he was under close watch by his kidnappers, pointing to several mercenaries who constantly accompanied Sanders. Longbow claimed Sanders committed criminal acts during his time in the Rogue Isles, but AoD Corp claims he was coerced into assisting his captors. Bolstering AoD Corp claims is the fact that Longbow was unable to provide any evidence that Sanders ever utilized weapons of his own, instead utilizing AoD Corp force field technology to protect the mercenaries from harm. Additionally, the majority of his activities in the Isles pitted him against Arachnos, the Council, and other groups considered “criminal organizations” by Longbow.

It is uncontested that during his five years in the Isles, Sanders cultivated respect and trust from the mercenaries that guarded him. He was eventually afforded a fairly luxurious lifestyle, allowed to live in a penthouse suite in St. Martial.

Following his acquittal, Sanders was tracked down by sympathetic Longbow agents and taken into protective custody. Longbow placed Sanders under guard in the Agincourt base, where it allowed him access to their communication equipment to issue a prepared response and briefly communicate with his wife. Witnesses described the conversation as “tearful.”

Longbow has announced that they will aide Sanders in returning to the United States. Several procedural hurdles must first be cleared, as Sanders, a Japanese citizen, has had no access to his passport or other legal documents in the Rogue Isles. It is expected that these issues will be expedited and Sanders shall be allowed to return within the next week.

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