OSAKA — Lawyers for Osaka Gov. “Knock” Yokoyama on Monday again remained silent in court over sexual harassment charges against their client, effectively accepting defeat in the 15 million yen damages suit brought by a 21-year-old female university student.
The Osaka District Court will give a ruling Dec. 13, in which it will most likely order Yokoyama to pay damages to the former campaign worker.
Yokoyama, a former comedian who won re-election in April, has come under increasing fire for keeping mum in court and denying the charge on other occasions. After the hearing, he claimed he has no intention of resigning.
In the second hearing before the Osaka District Court, Yokoyama’s lawyers again refused to either confirm or deny the claim made by the woman, whose name has been withheld.
In addition to the sex harassment charge, the plaintiff newly complained that Yokoyama discredited her by saying after the first hearing on Oct. 4 that her claim was an “obvious lie.”
The woman’s lawyers sought an additional 3 million yen over the remark, raising the total damages sought to 15 million yen. They also requested that Yokoyama testify, but the court deemed that unnecessary.
The woman had originally filed for 12 million yen, claiming Yokoyama groped her for more than 30 minutes in the back seat of a van in April during his re-election campaign.
In the Oct. 4 opening session, Yokoyama’s counsel refused to either confirm or deny the woman’s claim. In a civil case, if the defendant does not offer a counterargument, the court deems the plaintiff’s claim to have been true.
But at a news conference after the hearing and during a session of the prefectural assembly, Yokoyama repeatedly denied having harassed the woman, claiming the truth would come out in the process of a criminal investigation.
Besides suing, the woman filed a criminal complaint with authorities against the governor over the alleged sexual harassment. No action has so far been taken by public prosecutors.
On Monday, Yokoyama apologized for “disturbing the public” and insisted that the decision not to challenge the accusation in court was his best option.
Kimio Tsuji, one of the plaintiff’s lawyers, said it was obvious Yokoyama harassed the woman since he would not contest the allegation in the courtroom, he said.
Following the conclusion of the civil suit hearing, the plaintiff’s counsel asked the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office to question Yokoyama.
Yokoyama has claimed he decided not to challenge the damages suit so he can concentrate on his public duties, but the strategy has drawn sharp criticism and is intruding on those duties.
Last month’s regular prefectural assembly session got caught up with the scandal, instead of Osaka’s key financial restructuring plan and education reform.
Members of the prefecture’s advisory committee on gender equality, who were appointed by the governor himself, submitted a protest letter to Yokoyama, while a number of groups, including the Osaka chapters of the Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party, protested the governor’s courtroom attitude.
The Osaka chapter of the Japanese Communist Party on Monday urged that Yokoyama resign.
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