Company denies coercing woman to file charge in Brown rape case
GINOWAN, Okinawa — Officials for an Okinawa company that provides temporary help for U.S. base clubs deny they forced an employee to file a sexual assault charge against Marine Maj. Michael Brown.
“We were shocked when we read reports that she said we coerced her,” Yasuyuki Miyara, president of Plenty Staff said Thursday. “We merely tried to assist an employee who was troubled.
Brown, 40, is on trial in a Japanese court for allegedly attacking a bartender from the Camp Courtney Officers Club on Nov. 2 when she agreed to give him a ride to his off-base home. In a surprise move in Naha District Court last week, the woman, a Philippines national who has lived in Japan for 17 years, said she never wanted to file a criminal complaint against him, but was coerced by her employer, police and the prosecutors into pressing charges.
“The criminal complaint is not based on my voluntary will and the police and the prosecutor know it,” she wrote in a statement in English that was introduced into evidence. “Most of the act done by Brown is [sic] under my consent.”
In her statement, she claims police pressured her to file a criminal complaint, but she asked for time to think about it and consult with her employer. Two days later, she met with Miyara and Hajime “Jimmy” Nakai, her supervisor, at a restaurant in Gushikawa, near Camp Courtney.
“I was told by him to file a criminal complaint,” the Filipina wrote. “[The] president gave me an envelope with 50,000 yen [about $430]. I asked him what is this for? He said you know things are kind of hard. You may need some money.”
Miyara and Nakai said they did meet with her.
“She was very upset in tears,” Miyara said. “She told us the story in detail, and we really didn’t know what to tell her, so we called our attorney, Mr. [Satoshi] Kawamitsu, for advice.”
Miyara said no payment was made to the woman at the first meeting, but over the course of the next month Plenty Staff gave her 150,000 yen (about $1,290).
An initial payment of 50,000 yen was paid Nov. 5 because they felt they could not send her back to Camp Courtney, where rumors were circulating, Nakai said. Another 100,000 yen was paid Nov. 27 because she had been taking time off in order to talk to police and prosecutors.
“She was missing work because of this and we felt sorry for her,” he said. “So we gave her money to help support herself. She had been a pretty dependable employee.”
Miyara rejected allegations made by Brown’s family that he was active in the anti-base movement on Okinawa.
“Sixty percent of our business is on the military bases,” he said. “To support the removal of the U.S. military from Okinawa would be like cutting my own throat.”
When they met with Kawamitsu a week later, the woman insisted she wanted her alleged attacker, whom she did not know, to be caught.
“At that time, I explained to her that the only way to find and punish this man was to file a criminal complaint,” Kawamitsu said. “This crime is indictable only by a formal complaint, and as long as she did not file a complaint the police and the prosecutor could not do anything. That is the system.”
The woman gave Kawamitsu power of attorney, allowing him to represent her. “Again, I told her it was entirely up to her whether to file a complaint,” he said.
After Brown was identified as the suspect, Kawamitsu said he negotiated with Miyatomi Harushima, who represented Brown in the jidan process. Jidan is the Japanese custom of making a compensatory payment to a victim of a crime as a way to apologize.
In such cases, the charges are often dropped if the victim is satisfied with the apology.
“We were to meet with Harushima and the woman on December 16,” Kawamitsu said. “There was an agreement made through the Marine staff judge advocate’s office to make a payment of 2,500 in dollars plus and 250,000 yen.”
The woman did not show up.
“She called me, and said she did not want to come,” Nakai said. “I explained that the Brown wanted to pay jidan and she asked what that was. So I explained and she said, ‘Why do I have to accept jidan?’”
“I said it was an opportunity to end the matter,” Nakai said. “But she did not agree to it. She said she was not accusing him for the money. She wanted to punish him.”
Harushima, contacted Friday, said everyone at the meeting was surprised that she refused jidan. Three days later, Brown was indicted and taken into custody.
He had been held in a Naha detention center until Friday, when Takaesu announced the court had granted Brown bail. Earlier requests were repeatedly denied by the Naha District Court.
Brown later hired former Okinawa prosecutor Toshimitsu Takaesu and Michael Griffith, a New York attorney who specializes in defending Americans charged with crimes overseas.
Nakai said the woman was reassigned to clubs on other Marine bases, but her work began to suffer.
“Maybe it was the stress,” he said. “She began to make mistakes.”
Nakai said he thought working on a base might have been the problem, so he found her a job for an Okinawa company. “But she said it was too far away, and she quit.”
That was in March, about the same time Kawamitsu said he saw a change in her attitude about the case.
“I asked her if anyone from the defense side had approached her,” he said. She said she’d been contacted by a Filipino lawyer who practices on Okinawa, Kawamitsu said. He said he suspected the lawyer assisted the woman in composing her statement.
“There is some legal terminology ... that a layman would not normally use,” he said.
He said he suspected the lawyer was working for the defense team, an allegation denied emphatically by Takaesu.
“It is my understanding she contacted him on her own,” Takaesu said. “She wanted help from her countryman.”
The Filipino lawyer was unavailable for comment.
Kawamitsu, who also represents the Philippines Consulate on Okinawa, said he was informed that Okinawa police are now looking into any possible connection between the lawyer and Brown’s defense team.
On the evening of the woman’s bombshell testimony in court, a deputy prosecutor told reporters that they would “try to make it clear during the following trial sessions why she changed her mind.”
However, a spokesman for the prosecutors’ office Friday would not confirm whether they’ve asked for a police investigation into possible witness tampering. An Okinawa police spokesman in Gushikawa said he had no knowledge of such an investigation.