Alleged victim in Okinawa case says she was pressured into pressing charges
NAHA, Okinawa — The alleged victim in a sexual-assault case surprised the prosecution here Tuesday, saying she was coerced by her employer, police and prosecutors into pressing charges against Marine Maj. Michael Brown.
The woman, a Filipina in her early 40s who works for an agency that provides temporary help to clubs on Okinawa’s U.S. military bases, said she “never intended that for things to go this far.”
“The criminal complaint is not based on my voluntary will and the police and the prosecutor know it,” she said in a written statement.
Brown, 40, a 19-year Marine veteran, has pleaded not guilty to a charge he attempted to rape the woman on Nov. 2, when she drove him to his off-base home near Camp Courtney. He had been drinking at the base officers’ club, where she worked as a cashier.
In her statements to police and the prosecutor in the weeks following the incident, she alleged that Brown attempted to rape her when she parked her car, but stopped when she protested. However, during testimony Tuesday in Naha District Court, she said some of the kissing and fondling inside the car that night was consensual, and when she protested that he had gone too far, he stopped and apologized.
“And I forgave him,” she said.
They talked, and he allegedly tried to force himself on her again. To get him to stop, she said she “jokingly” told him she was going to call the police. He became angry and grabbed her cell phone and threw it into a nearby stream, she said.
Brown also has pleaded not guilty to destroying private property.
The woman was a reluctant witness during four hours of questioning. To protect her privacy, she was allowed to testify via closed-circuit television from another room in the courthouse.
The panel of three judges, lawyers and other court officials could see her, but the screen facing the courtroom’s public section was left blank. Brown also could not see her testify.
Several times, the woman struggled, stopped and asked that the judges read a statement she had written prior to appearing as a witness.
“I don’t want to answer any more questions,” she said. “So can you please read my letter, because, you know, it’s the truth?”
At one point, the prosecutor asked her if she had signed the complaint against Brown.
“Yes, but I don’t know what they are writing,” she said. “I can’t understand it, so I just signed it.”
She said she’s lived in Japan for 17 years but could not read Japanese and understood only “about 60 percent or so” of what the police and prosecutor told her as she wrote her statements.
Defense attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu introduced parts of her written statement as evidence during cross-examination.
In it, the woman states, in English: “Right after the incident until the present I do not have the intentions of punishing Brown for the two cases.”
She alleges that when she drove to Camp Courtney’s main gate after the incident, all she wanted was to find Brown and get him to replace her cell phone. But Marines at the gate called Okinawa police because the incident took place off base and the case just seemed to grow out of control, she said.
“I should have told the guard not to call the local police,” she stated. “Now, I regret it.”
She said Gushikawa police officers told her to file a complaint, but she put it off, insisting she had to talk to her employer, Plenty Staff of Ginowan. But when she went to them, the company’s president and a lawyer told her to cooperate with police, file a complaint and “stick to the story.”
She claims the company paid her 150,000 yen.
She also alleges she tried to tell police and prosecutors several times that she wanted to withdraw the charges, but they would not listen to her.
“Do you believe that you were used politically?” asked Takaesu.
“Maybe. Yes,” she said.
Brown’s family has claimed that the charges against him were politically motivated and driven by Okinawa officials who want the U.S. military to reduce its footprint on the island and are pushing to have the status of forces agreement between the United States and Japan changed to give Japanese officials more authority over Americans charged with crimes.
In a press conference several hours after the hearing, Hiroyuki Kawami, deputy chief prosecutor at the Naha District Public Prosecutors Office, said the prosecution team was not deterred.
“We have confidence that the original investigations were made based on her complaint and request to punish the defendant,” he said. “We will try to make it clear during the following trial sessions why she changed her mind.
“There is no way we would make a victim sign a statement without making sure that she fully understood the content. We understand that the victim has a good command of Japanese. She signed the statement after the content was thoroughly explained and she fully understood it.”
He said the prosecution couldn’t withdraw the charges at this point in the judicial process.