NEW YORK – U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy Woodland may have never been charged with raping a Japanese woman in Okinawa in June if he were Japanese, Time magazine said in its Aug. 27 edition.
The edition, which hit newsstands Monday, carries a feature report on the case. It says, “Given what is known about the events surrounding the incident, the case against Timothy Woodland may never have led to his indictment if he were a Japanese man.”
The report says prosecutors will try to prove Woodland, 24, guilty based on his admission of having had sex with the woman, although he has claimed it was consensual.
After describing the subcultures of “amejo” and “kokujo” — Japanese women who congregate around American men and black men, respectively — it further notes that under normal circumstances in Japan, a woman’s sexual history “can invalidate rape charges altogether.”
However, it suggests these are not normal circumstances, noting how the case has become fodder for a media feeding frenzy.
“In Okinawa, the already murky case has been churned into a raging whirl by nationalist politics, screaming media, a half-century of dammed-up local grief and — roiling beneath it all — an undercurrent of racism,” the report says. Woodland is black.
To read the Okinawa newspapers now, it adds, “you would think the main mission of U.S. military personnel there is to engage in crime sprees.”
The Time article also highlights distrust of the Japanese judicial system.
“The criminal-justice system is run by prosecutors,” the report quotes U.S. lawyer Annette Eddie-Callagain, who lives in Okinawa and is familiar with Woodland’s case, as saying. “Defense lawyers are just bystanders.”
The report points out that “(Woodland) has already been through Japan’s standard detention period — 15 days in his case but sometimes as long as 23 days — during which a suspect is questioned without the presence of a lawyer.”
It quotes Eddie-Callagain as saying, “Here, you’re guilty until proved innocent.”
Woodland, stationed at the U.S. Kadena Air Base, has been indicted on charges of raping a Japanese woman in her 20s in Okinawa on June 29. He has been detained by Japanese authorities since July 6, when the U.S. military handed him over. That was four days after the Naha District Court had issued an arrest warrant for him.
Under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, the U.S. military is not obliged to hand over military suspects before they are indicted.
However, following the rape of a 12-year-old girl in Okinawa by three U.S. servicemen in 1995, Washington agreed to give “sympathetic consideration” to transferring suspects of serious crimes prior to their indictment.
The latest case has triggered widespread anger in Okinawa and renewed debate in Tokyo over constraints imposed by SOFA on Japanese police investigations of crimes in which U.S. military personnel are suspects.
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