Assault allegation targeted in Brown trial
Stars and Stripes June 21, 2003
NAHA, Okinawa — Marine Maj. Michael Brown’s sexual assault trial resumed Thursday as courtroom attention shifted from the 19-year veteran to the prosecutor who brought the case to trial.
Testifying Thursday was Sadao Matsubara, the public prosecutor who originally questioned Brown and alleged victim Victoria Nakamine last fall, and Hajime Nakai, a manager at Plenty Staff, the business Nakamine worked for as a bartender at base clubs and restaurants.
Nakamine, 40, a Philippine native, initially told investigators Brown tried to rape her, according to prosecutors. She since has recanted that testimony and now insists Brown did not try to assault her.
Brown has pleaded not guilty to the charge of attempted rape.
Chief Judge Nobuyuki Yokota questioned prosecutor Matsubara during Thursday’s session.
“Didn’t you want to make a case by all means because it was an incident that had been attracting a lot of publicity?” Yokota asked the prosecutor.
“I’m honest and I say clearly I never thought about that,” Matsubara replied. “The case was only indictable by the victim’s complaint. If she wanted to drop the charge, no one would blame it.”
At the last hearing in May, Nakamine shocked prosecutors by testifying no rape attempt occurred. She also testified her employer, police and prosecutors pressured her into filing a criminal complaint.
Brown, also 40, consistently has denied the charges.
Released on bail May 16, he’s restricted to Camp Courtney for the trial’s duration.
On Wednesday, Brown’s attorney, Toshimitsu Takaesu, asked for the case to be dismissed.
But judges said they would hear testimony Thursday from two witnesses.
They also said they will hear from at least one more witness July 1.
In written statements to police and prosecutors, Nakamine previously alleged Brown attempted to rape her and threw her cell phone into a stream Nov. 2 after she offered him a ride home from Camp Courtney’s Officers’ Club.
She later testified the two kissed and fondled in her car and when she asked him to stop, he did.
She also testified she didn’t understand what prosecutors wrote on the statements, which she admitted signing.
Despite living in Japan for 17 years, Nakamine can’t read Japanese, she said, noting she understood little more than half of what prosecutors said to her.
Most of Thursday’s testimony centered on whether Nakamine understood what prosecutors asked her and the testimony they wrote down.
“The alleged victim described it as this,” Matsubara said. “‘At the first scene, he suddenly jumped on me and it was as if I were attacked by a lion.’”
She started crying during questioning, he said, addinghe suggested she take a break to calm herself.
“She said she could go on. But she was still emotionally upset,” he said. “[Nakamine] told me that her husband was disgusted because he had been called by police so many times, and he already wanted her to drop the charges. She said that she also started to feel that it was taking too much of her time. ... Yet, she said that she still wanted to punish the suspect.”
At one point, Nakamine said she would stop all proceedings if Brown apologized, Matsubara said.
Prosecutor Tsuyoshi Satake pressed Matsubara on whether he knew if Nakamine understood all he said and wrote.
“After completing questioning, I read the statement for her, making sure it was correct and she understood everything,” Matsubara said. “She even wanted me to add some portions that were missing.
“I rephrased some words that were not used in everyday conversation. This way, I believe that she fully understood.”
Nakai testified he believed Nakamine understands more Japanese than English.
Of the formal complaint filed with police, he said:
“She told us that she filed it by herself and the action convinced us that she absolutely wanted to pursue legal procedures.”
Satake questioned why Matsubara interrogated Nakamine without an interpreter.
Matsubara said they understood each other well enough that one wasn’t needed.
“There were some English sentences and words that she told me. If not, there would be no way for me to make up such expression in English,” he said.
Yokota asked if Nakamine used kokuso, meaning to press charges.
“I do not remember exactly what word she used,” Matsubara said. “But she did tell me that she would not forgive him, and she wanted him to be punished and put him in a jail.”
The judge questioned whether Nakamine used the Japanese word shobatsu, for punish.
She chose a different word meaning the same thing, Matsubara said:
“She used the word bassuru.’”
Matsubara said he was just as dumbfounded as other prosecutors and police when Nakamine testified she never wanted Brown punished.
“When I asked her what she wanted to happen, she clearly told me that she wanted to put him in jail,” he said.
Yokota asked Matsubara what he planned to do if told Nakamine no longer wanted to prosecute.
“If that was what she really wanted to do, I would have dropped the case,” he said.
The trial is scheduled to continue July 1.