• Kyodo, Staff Report


A U.S. Navy sailor pleaded guilty Friday to raping a Japanese woman at a hotel in Okinawa Prefecture in March, at his first hearing at Naha District Court.

Justin Castellanos, 24, was indicted for raping the woman in her 40s at the hotel in the prefectural capital in the early hours of March 13. He took the woman, a tourist from Fukuoka Prefecture, into his room after finding her asleep in a corridor in the hotel.

During the court hearing, prosecutors said Castellanos decided to take advantage of the situation and rape her after trying and failing to wake her.

The seaman is based at U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab in the northern part of Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military bases in Japan. The next hearing will be held on June 27.

The trial comes amid growing anti-base sentiment in the prefecture following the arrest last week of former marine Kenneth Franklin Shinzato, a civilian employed at the U.S. Air Force’s Kadena Air Base, for allegedly dumping the body of Rina Shimabukuro, a 20-year-old office worker from Uruma.

Investigative sources have said Shinzato admitted to killing the victim after sexually assaulting her.

In the meantime, a midnight curfew and other restrictions imposed on all U.S. service members on Okinawa took effect on Friday, according to the U.S. forces in Japan.

In an announcement Thursday, Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, commander of U.S. military forces in Okinawa, said the intent of the restrictions was “to observe a period of unity and mourning by curtailing off-installation activities” in response to the alleged crimes by Castellanos and Shinzato.

He urged all service members to “consider their roles as ambassadors to Japan and good neighbors with the people of Okinawa.”

Under the new policy, which will remain in effect through June 24, all personnel, including officers, must be on base by midnight, and alcohol may not be purchased or consumed off base. Patronizing off-base bars and clubs and attending off-base parties are prohibited, according to Nicholson’s statement.

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