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NAHA, Okinawa — Marine Maj. Michael Brown’s trial has been marked by surprise moves both in and out of the courtroom.

First, Brown, 40, charged in the attempted rape of a Philippine barmaid Nov. 2, refused to answer questions from judges and the prosecutor when he pleaded not guilty, declaring he would speak about the details of what happened that night at a later time.

Then his accuser, Victoria Nakamine, 40, a Philippines national married to a Japanese man, recanted the charges when she testified in May, contending police and prosecutors coerced her into signing Japanese statements she didn’t understand.

Her original statement contended that Brown fondled her in her car after they stopped on a deserted road next to the Tengen River to talk. She said she objected and Brown stopped his advances, but not before he threw her cell phone into the water when she jokingly said she was going to call police.

The three judges hearing the case in Naha District Court decided to accept both signed statements and her sworn testimony as evidence, turning down Brown’s request to dismiss the charges.

Then, in his opening argument, defense attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu said Brown had an “understanding” he would have sex with the woman but stopped when she objected.

Okinawa police said that before Brown was indicted Dec. 19, he told them he rebuffed Nakamine’s sexual advances, then tossed her phone after she snatched his wallet and threatened to keep it.

In the middle of the case, a consultant for the Brown family was stabbed while taking his family to dinner. A further connection between the crime and the Brown case has not been established but the consultant has claimed the attack was an “attempted hit.”

That was followed by prosecutors’ courtroom disclosure that Nakamine received $13,500 the day before she recanted her allegations, saying she did not want Brown, a 19-year Marine veteran, to be punished.

The money’s source was not disclosed and hasn’t been mentioned again in the trial. Nor has the subject of a Japanese press report early in the case that prosecutors had DNA evidence proving Brown had physical contact with the woman.

Then, in early September, Takaesu introduced evidence the veteran Marine had undergone back surgery in 1999 and walked with a steel brace that had been surgically inserted to strengthen his spine.

Takaesu said the injury and constant pain Brown suffers would have made it impossible for him to conduct the gymnastics with Nakamine described in the police report.

The trial judges have not ruled on that evidence.

And throughout the case, Brown family members have maintained a Web site, www.majorbrown.org, that attacks the Japanese judicial system. It also calls for changes in the U.S.-Japanese Status of Forces Agreement to prevent servicemembers charged with crimes in Japan from being held without access to their own attorney during pre-indictment questioning by police and prosecutors.

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