OSAKA — Osaka Gov. “Knock” Yokoyama was indicted Tuesday on charges of molesting a female campaign aide.
The indictment followed a letter of resignation that he had submitted from his hospital bed to the prefectural assembly earlier in the day.
The Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office indicted him on charges of molesting the 21-year-old campaign assistant during his re-election campaign in April, prosecutors said.
His resignation is expected to be formally accepted at a special session next Monday.
Once accepted, a gubernatorial election will be held within 50 days. According to assembly members, a vote may be set for Feb. 6 or 13.
Assembly Chairman Mitsunobu Sugimoto said the governor’s resignation will end the chaos in the prefectural administration.
Following Monday’s raids by prosecutors on the governor’s office, official residence, home and private office in connection with a molestation complaint, Yokoyama, who entered a Suita, Osaka Prefecture, hospital the same day claiming poor health, called a senior prefectural official early Tuesday and conveyed his intention to step down.
Vice Gov. Norihiko Kajimoto visited Yokoyama at the hospital Tuesday morning at his request and the governor signed the letter, which was later handed to Sugimoto.
The letter asked that the assembly accept his resignation for personal reasons.
The Liberal Democratic Party’s Osaka chapter, the largest force in the 112-seat assembly, decided to choose its own candidate for governor as soon as possible, said Yasuyuki Yokokura, the chapter’s secretary general.
According to the vice governor, Yokoyama was calm but looked pale and tired when he signed the resignation letter Tuesday morning with his real name, Isamu Yamada.
Yokoyama apologized for causing problems for the public, the assembly and prefectural officials. During his 30-minute hospital visit, Kajimoto said he did not talk about the criminal molestation allegations against Yokoyama, who last week was found liable in a sexual harassment damages suit filed by the same woman, a 21-year-old university student and former Yokoyama campaign staffer.
Although Yokoyama had claimed out of court that he did not grope the woman in April in the back seat of a campaign van, he had said he would resign if indicted over the criminal complaint.
The woman filed the complaint with the Osaka District Public Prosecutor’s Office in April, claiming Yokoyama molested her for more than 30 minutes in the back seat of the van. The governor filed a counter-complaint with the same office later that he was falsely accused.
The woman filed a 15 million yen damages suit against Yokoyama in August and the Osaka District Court ordered him to pay 11 million yen on Dec. 13 after the governor did not contest the civil suit, while claiming the truth would come out in the course of the criminal investigation.
Since the first hearing of the damages suit in October, citizens’ groups, women’s groups and municipal assemblies had called on Yokoyama to step down.
Following the indictment, the woman released a statement through her lawyers that said the latest development in the case made her cry.
“This (the indictment) is not the end but the beginning. (Yokoyama) ran away from the civil suit while defaming me at press conferences, which humiliated me tremendously,” she said in the statement.
Her lawyers said they applaud the decision to continue the prosecution and thanked the prosecutors for understanding the feelings of their client and trusting her testimony.
The woman’s lawyers said they will fight on until Yokoyama is found guilty.
“The indictment was not surprising, but it was a relief because if he had not been indicted the judicial authorities would have been discredited,” said Kimio Tsuji, one of the lawyers representing the woman.
“Yokoyama made a mockery of the civil case and considered the criminal case to be a last resort. Now he has no way out,” he said.
The lawyers said the least Yokoyama can do now is to plead guilty in the trial and apologize to the woman because he has not shown even the slightest remorse so far.
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