National

Marine convicted, accuser or no

Major's sentence suspended; woman sought no charges

Kyodo

The Naha District Court in Okinawa Prefecture on Thursday sentenced a U.S. Marine Corps major to a suspended one-year prison term for attempted molestation and property destruction — even though his accuser wanted all charges against him dropped.

Prosecutors had demanded a three-year prison term for Maj. Michael Brown, 41, on charges of attempting to rape the alleged victim, a Filipino woman, and of destroying her property.

But presiding Judge Nobuyuki Yokota instead found the defendant guilty of attempted molestation and property damage, suspending his sentence for three years.

Yokota said in handing down the ruling: “The victim’s court testimony was unnatural, as it was contradictory. The court finds the record of interrogation (of Brown) during the investigation admissible.

“There remains reasonable uncertainty over the accusation that the defendant had threatened to rape the victim.”

Brown had maintained his innocence throughout.

His trial took an unusual turn after the woman testified that she wanted to see the charges against Brown dropped, saying she had not wanted to press them in the first place.

Despite the woman’s own testimony, however, prosecutors had said a “strict” punishment was necessary.

Brown twice lodged an appeal to have the judge removed from the case. His lawyer, Takashi Takano, said they would carefully consider whether to appeal the ruling.

Koshin Iraha, chief of criminal investigations for Okinawa Prefectural Police, refrained from commenting on the court’s decision not to recognize the attempted rape charge.

According to the court, Brown tried to rape the woman on the morning of Nov. 2, 2002, in a car in the city of Gushikawa.

He is also accused of throwing the woman’s cell phone into a river after she tried to call police.

Okinawa Prefectural Police obtained an arrest warrant for Brown in December 2002, but the United States, under a bilateral treaty, did not hand him over to Japanese authorities until charges were filed.

The case prompted debate because it was the first in which a handover before indictment had been rejected since Japan and the United States agreed in 1995 to give “sympathetic consideration” to handing over suspects in serious crimes, including murder and rape, before charges are filed.

Japan has requested that the United States hand over suspects before indictment in four cases, gaining custody of suspects in three of the cases.

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