18-month sentence sought in airman's molestation trial on Okinawa
NAHA, Okinawa — A Japanese prosecutor Thursday asked for an 18-month prison sentence for a Kadena airman who pleaded guilty in September to molesting a 10-year-old girl.
Staff Sgt. Armando Valdez, 27, sat quietly on a bench between two guards in front of the defense table in Naha District Court. He showed little emotion as Naha District Prosecutor Masahisa Yokota described him as an “extremely despicable” person who accosted the girl “to satisfy his sexual urge.”
According to evidence presented at earlier hearings, Valdez was drunk the morning of July 3 when he came across the girl and her 9-year-old friend playing in front of a house in Okinawa City.
Valdez admitted to leading the two girls to a ground-floor parking garage, where he placed his hand inside the 10-year-old’s pants, touched her lower abdomen, then forced her to roll up her T-shirt so he could photograph her breasts with his cell-phone camera.
“He caused a great deal of anxiety to the girl and the local community,” Yokota said. “He poses a substantial risk.”
While noting that Valdez has no criminal record and had apologized to the girl and her parents and pleaded guilty, Yokota said he should be sent to prison as deterrence to other servicemembers.
“It’s necessary that he be severely punished,” Yokota said, asking for a year and six months in prison at hard labor. The maximum sentence Valdez faced was seven years.
Valdez testified that he remembers little of what happened the morning the incident took place. He said he had been drinking heavily at a friend’s party the night before and continued drinking at several Okinawa bars after he left the party.
He said he had forgotten where he had parked his car and was wandering in the Gate Two district looking for it when he met the girls.
Defense attorney Satoshi Kawamitsu asked that any sentence the court hands down be suspended. Kawamitsu said he apologized to the girl’s parents for Valdez and gave them a small amount of money as “symbolic” restitution. He said Valdez, assigned to the 18th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, has not been paid since being incarcerated the day of the incident and was $6,000 in debt. Valdez’s Japanese girlfriend gave him the restitution money, Kawamitsu said.
Valdez, who is from Los Angeles, told the three-judge panel Thursday his girlfriend was pregnant and he wanted to start a new life with her as soon as possible.
“I will support her whether she wants to continue our relationship or not,” he said. “It will take me some time to get back on my feet. I’m going to get a job and go back to school.”
Concerning the crime, Valdez said it was “a moment of stupidity.”
“I made a mistake,” he said, shaking his head. “I was intoxicated. I wish I really knew why I did this. I will never do it again. I’ve thought about it every day. I punish myself every day telling myself how stupid I was.”
He also apologized to his fellow servicemembers.
“I let them down,” he said. “My actions were not the core values of a U.S. Air Force member. I am truly sorry.”
Valdez will be sentenced Nov. 17.
Stars and Stripes reporter Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this story.