‘Knock’ groped another woman: victim

OSAKA — The 22-year-old student accusing disgraced former Osaka Gov. “Knock” Yokoyama of molesting her told the Osaka District Court on Thursday that the comedian-turned-politician also molested another campaign worker during his April 1999 re-election bid.

During two hours of testimony in the second hearing of her lawsuit against the former governor, the woman said that before she was molested by Yokoyama on April 8, another female campaign worker had warned her to be wary of the governor because he had touched her crotch in a van.

“Because I had been treated (by Yokoyama) as if I were a child, I did not think of myself as a sexual object,” said the woman, who was not identified for reasons of privacy. “I could not believe what my colleague said at the time.”

The woman also said that Yokoyama’s apology read out before the court in the first hearing was not sufficient because it did not admit that he had forcibly opened her legs and forced his right hand inside her underwear.

“He did not admit that he had enjoyed my resistance. I want him to be sentenced to a prison term,” she said.

She called the 69-year-old a criminal for molesting her in the campaign van and explained that she was afraid of alerting the driver of the vehicle because he, too, had harassed her.

She related to the court the circumstances of the alleged assault.

“He entered the van from another vehicle with a blanket in his hands,” she said. “As soon as he covered me and himself with the blanket, he put his right hand inside my trousers.”

The woman, a college student, was working on Yokoyama’s re-election campaign. Screens surrounded her so that only judges, lawyers and prosecutors could see her.

“A man who does such a thing . . . is a criminal, isn’t he?” the woman asked.

As for why she did not ask for help from the driver or a police officer at the front of the van, the woman said if she had done so, the powerful governor might have harmed her.

“Yokoyama had said all (Osaka Prefectural Police) officers were his subordinates, so I thought he (the police officer) would not stop his boss,” she said, adding that the driver had tried to harass her before, so she did not believe he would help her.

The woman had to testify Thursday because Yokoyama’s lawyers did not agree to take her deposition as evidence during the first hearing last month.

Yokoyama sat motionless in the defendant’s seat, out of view of his accuser.

Contrary to his remarks before he was indicted last December, Yokoyama, who announced his resignation just hours before he was charged, pleaded guilty in the first hearing, admitting he had put his hand inside the woman’s underwear. He also apologized to the victim by reading out a statement in court.

Ever since initial media reports on the allegations surfaced last April, the former comedian, whose real name is Isamu Yamada, had denied the charge, calling the woman a liar.

According to prosecutors, Yokoyama groped the woman for about 30 minutes in the back seat of the van on the afternoon of April 8 last year — three days before the Osaka gubernatorial election.

Although the woman filed a complaint against Yokoyama with the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office the following day, he won a second four-year term by a landslide.

The woman filed a 15 million yen damages suit with the district court in August.

Throughout the civil suit hearings, Yokoyama failed to appear before the court, and his lawyers did not contest the suit, refusing to confirm or deny the woman’s claims.

Outside the courtroom, however, Yokoyama continued to deny the allegations and reiterated that “the truth will come out in the process of the criminal case.”

In the damages suit, the court ordered Yokoyama in December to pay 11 million yen in damages to the woman and severely criticized his attitude, saying he had ignored and challenged the court’s authority.