Assault trial set for indicted Iwakuni Marines
Two Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station Marines will be tried together next month on assault charges.
The Yamaguchi Public Prosecutor’s Office indicted Cpl. Joseph P. Benoit, 22, and Lance Cpl. Nathan J. Schuermann, 22, both of Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, last fall. They are accused of attacking and injuring two 22-year-old Japanese women from Hiroshima last spring in Iwakuni’s Kuruma-cho district.
The first trial session is at 10 a.m. Feb. 6, Staff Sgt. Brenda Varnadore, base spokeswoman, confirmed Wednesday. Both Marines are represented by Japanese attorneys.
Benoit is accused of punching one of the women in the head around 5:30 a.m. on April 12, knocking her to the ground, then climbing on top of her and grabbing her by the neck, the indictment shows.
The woman sustained bruises and other injuries, requiring at least eight days of treatment, the indictment shows.
Schuermann allegedly assaulted a second woman by knocking her down, pulling her hair and striking her head against the ground, the indictment shows; the bruises and other injuries she received required 11 days of medical treatment, it states.
Iwakuni police did not arrest the men immediately; the case was sent to prosecutors Sept. 9, court records show. Benoit and Schuermann were indicted Oct. 14.
Japanese authorities usually take custody of suspects once they are indicted but the two Marines remained on base in a liberty-restricted status, Varnadore said.
The trial date announcement comes days after a flurry of Iwakuni Marine arrests by local law-enforcement officers and after the first court session of a trial of a Marine who pleaded guilty to attempted rape resulting in bodily injury.
Iwakuni Commander Col. David Darrah ordered a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew Jan. 13 for base Marines and sailors. The order also restricts servicemembers living off base to their quarters during curfew.
The curfew remained in place Wednesday with no date announced for a return to normal liberty regulations.
A rash of troubles
Here are other recent incidents at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station involving locally based personnel accused of serious crimes:
• Jan. 15: Pfc. William E. McIntosh, 22, of Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted rape resulting in bodily injury during the opening session of his off-base trial. He has been in Japanese custody since being indicted Nov. 21. Japanese police say McIntosh attempted to rape a 53-year-old Japanese woman Aug. 1. McIntosh’s next trial session is Feb. 5 in Iwakuni.
• Jan. 13: Iwakuni police arrested Lance Cpl. Lester E. Son, 20, of Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, in connection with a break-in of an off-base home and the burglary of $2,000 in cash and goods from a 52-year-old Japanese woman. His case was referred Jan. 14 to Yamaguchi District Public Prosecutor’s Office for review. He remained in police custody Wednesday but had yet to be indicted.
• Jan. 11: Local police arrested Cpl. Todd M. Heaney, 25, of Marine Aircraft Logistics Squadron 12, in connection with the theft of almost $5,000 in car parts from a local dealer in September. Police have said a second Marine is being questioned in connection with the case but remains free. They have yet to disclose the second Marine’s name; base officials have declined to confirm a second Marine was involved. Local police say both Marines confessed. Heaney’s case was referred Jan. 13 to Yamaguchi District Public Prosecutor’s Office for review. Heaney remained in Japanese custody Wednesday but had yet to be indicted.
— Staff reports