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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Robert Nolan kept scrupulous notes on his four months spent in a Japanese pretrial confinement cell.

The GS-14 civilian tracked every meal, every interrogation and every visitor in a methodical, organized table. And now that he’s out on bail, he wants to make sure people understand that the status of forces agreement protection niceties like American meals and personal heaters come only when you’re doing time, not waiting for trial.

“Detainees do not get any special treatment,” Nolan said.

From a cold cell to health problems to bad translations of important documents in his defense, he tracked it all in his logbook.

“I’m not going on memory,” said Nolan, who was released in February. “I kept track of everything that happened every day. It gave me something to do.”

Nolan, director of Commander, Naval Forces Japan’s human resources office, is charged with “bodily injury resulting in death” in a Nov. 2 incident involving a 70-year-old Japanese man.

Nolan pleaded guilty to the charges but is disputing the allegation that he forcefully shoved the man outside Live Bar Buzz, near Yokosuka Naval Base, after the man, who had been drinking, made trouble in the bar. The final session of the trial is Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in Yokosuka District Court.

Nolan first was placed in Yokosuka’s pretrial detainment facility after his arrest and later transferred to Yokosuka Prison — both grim places for a 54-year-old man with health problems, he said.

Nolan has a blood-clotting condition, and his medication requires a special diet — one that the jail was unwilling to provide, he said.

Medical problems plagued him, causing him to make three trips to the emergency room and prompting numerous doctor visits. Nolan, 230 pounds when he arrived at the prison, dropped more than 20 pounds before making bail, he said.

It was also very cold, he said, as there was no heat in his solitary cell.

“It was so cold — it was never warm in there,” Nolan said. “The attitude is that ‘this isn’t a playhouse’ and you’re here to be punished, even though you haven’t been convicted of a crime. You’re treated as if you’re guilty — otherwise you wouldn’t be there.”

Prisoners were not allowed to lie down during the day. Baths were allowed every fourth day. Exercise meant walking in a circle for 15 minutes, and there was no exercise on weekends and holidays. His wife came every day for 15 minutes of supervised talk. He was not allowed to talk to anyone in the prison population except the guards, he said.

Interrogation happened every day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. And he was never sure whether the interpreter was really getting it right, he said.

He was asked to sign a Japanese version of his statement without any translation. He had to argue for an English version to make sure it was correct, he said, adding that he had to make several corrections.

While there, Nolan said he pushed for several changes in accommodations, and was able to get some extra blankets and the food that the American SOFA convicts have delivered from the base under a 1953 Japan-U.S. Joint Committee Agreement that allows for special considerations due “to differences in cultural customs.”

For the roughly 15 or so SOFA prisoners now in Yokosuka Prison, this means extra food, personal heaters and Western-style beds and toilets.

But even when he was able to get the food, it was served ice cold as guards told him the kitchen was too far away “to prepare it properly,” Nolan said.

After two attempts, Nolan was released Feb. 21 from Japanese custody on a 3 million yen (about $25,400) bond.

A conviction of bodily injury resulting in death carries a prison term of a minimum of three years and a maximum of 20 years.


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