YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — An American teenager connected to an incident that caused a motorbike crash could be charged as an adult after Japanese family court officials referred the case to the prosecutor’s office Thursday, officials said.

The teen is one of four American youths who admitted to stringing a rope across a street near Yokota last August and then watching as it flipped the motorbike and the young woman riding it. The 23-year-old victim suffered a fractured skull.

The Japanese family court had jurisdiction because the 19-year-old is considered a minor under Japanese law. It passed the case to the criminal court system — a move that generally requires prosecutors to seek an indictment, Norihiko Kuboki, a spokesman for the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office in Tachikawa, said Friday.

Because the teen is not in police custody, prosecutors are not limited in the time they take to decide how to proceed, Kuboki said. He would not discuss specifics of the case because it hadn’t been received by the prosecutor’s office.

It was not yet clear what charges the teen could face. Japanese authorities said in late December that they would not pursue charges of attempted murder.

At the time, Japanese authorities also cleared three other American youths who were arrested after the incident and held for three weeks. Two of those youths have since left Japan.

All four youths — the children of troops based at Yokota at the time of the incident — admitted being involved in what has been characterized as a prank gone wrong, said Lt. Col. Mark Milam, staff judge advocate for the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota.

In December, their families collectively paid the victim $7,000 in what is known as a “gomen nasai” — or “I’m sorry” — payment, customary in the Japanese legal system, Milam said.

Japanese officials are pursuing a case against only the one teen likely because they determined he was most culpable and because of his age — he was 18 at the time of the crash and the oldest of the four, Milam said. Two were 15 and the other 17.

The teen, whose name has not been disclosed by U.S. and Japanese officials, declined to comment, as did his attorney. Attempts by Stars and Stripes to reach the victim, who also remains unidentified, have been unsuccessful.

The teen lives on Yokota with his family and has surrendered his passport to military officials. Though he is not officially confined to base, he leaves only to meet with his attorney, Milam said.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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