Although no official statement has been made by the artist or her representatives, evidence points to links between high-profile Japanese pop star AI (Ai Carina Uemura) and at least one, if not both, of the suspects being questioned over the rape and murder of Nicola Furlong.
It is believed that 23-year-old American James Blackston, the only person named by Tokyo police in relation to the crime, was dancing on stage with AI just days before he was arrested.
AI, who is thought of by many as Japan’s queen of hip-hop soul, shot to stardom back in 2005 with her hit single “Story,” which has logged 3.5 million downloads and stayed on the Oricon charts for a year.
Born in Los Angeles but raised in both Kagoshima and the U.S., AI is bilingual and has a following in the States as well as Japan. She is signed with EMI Music, who declined to comment for this story.
She has performed with big-name U.S. acts such as Snoop Doggy Dog and Chaka Khan, and headlined with Tito, Jackie and Marlon Jackson in Tokyo late last year at a Michael Jackson Tribute concert.
It is believed that prior to his arrest on May 24, Blackston, who uses the dancing name “King Tight” or “KT,” was touring Japan with the singer as part of her AI “Independent” Tour 2012.
Blackston is believed to have shared the stage with AI at a concert in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, on May 22, the day before Furlong allegedly met the two men at a Nicki Minaj concert in Tokyo. Earlier reports falsely suggested the two suspects were part of the Minaj entourage, something the artist strongly denied in a recent public statement, but it is believed Blackston has danced for high-profile American acts in the past, such as the Black Eyed Peas.
On May 21, the day after the AI Sendai concert, Blackston gave a special King Tight Workshop at a dance school in Sendai, where he taught the moves to a number of AI’s songs to fans, some of whom appear to be as young as junior high school age.
Rumors are also circulating that the other suspect, a 19-year-old American musician who police refused to name due to his age, may also be part of the AI entourage — possibly a player or backup singer — but this has yet to be confirmed.
Neither man has yet been arrested or charged with either the rape or murder of Furlong, but both suspects are currently being held on the lesser charge of waisetsu-zai for forcibly groping Furlong’s friend, also a 21-year-old Irish girl, in a taxi after plying the pair with alcohol.
It is understood that it was not Blackston but his unnamed 19-year-old associate who was found standing next to Furlong’s body by an employee of the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku. The hotel worker went to the room after another guest complained about the noise.
Long wait in cells likely before charges laid
Tokyo police have yet to confirm where the two American suspects being questioned in connection with the death of Nicola Furlong are being held, but it is sure to be in one of the notorious daiyo kangoku, or police station “substitute prisons.”
According to a report by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, Japan the longest police detention periods of any country in the world. Under the 1908 Prison Law, suspects can be held in custody for a total of 23 days before formal charges are laid.
After an initial 72-hour “questioning” period, by the end of which an official arrest must be made and the case referred to the prosecutor, the prosecutor can then apply to the judge for a 10-day detention period.
The prosecutor can then apply for another 10-day extension, and judges almost always grant these extensions, especially in the case of foreigners, who are deemed a flight risk, or when other more serious charges are pending.
During this period police have been known to engage in extremely intense interrogation procedures in order to get a confession and build up enough evidence to lay formal charges, or to arrest suspects on additional charges.
The standard of evidence for laying formal charges in Japan is very high, which is why it is very common for suspects, such as the two in the Furlong case, to be detained for long periods of time on a minor charge, such as criminal indecency.
Prosecutors in Japan are also famously hesitant to take on cases that they are not sure they can win.
This is believed to be one of the factors behind Japan’s famously high criminal conviction rate of 99.8 percent.