Defense rests in major's attempted-rape trial on Okinawa
NAHA, Okinawa — Marine Maj. Michael Brown got the final word in Tuesday at a hearing that wrapped up his 1½-year trial in a Japanese court on a charge of attempted rape.
“I am not the offender,” said Brown, 41, sitting at the witness stand after his attorneys wrapped up more than five hours of closing arguments.
“I am not the attacker. I am not guilty of attempted rape. I cannot be guilty of a crime that did not occur.”
Brown, a 20-year Marine veteran assigned to the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, is charged with attempting to rape a 40-year-old Filipina barmaid on Nov. 2, 2002, after she gave him a ride from the Camp Courtney Officers’ Club following a night of drinking and singing karaoke. The woman, Victoria Nakamine, told police that Brown attempted to rape her after they parked at the side of a secluded road to talk, then threw her cell phone into the nearby Tengan River when she tried to call police.
However, Nakamine later changed her story, testifying in court last May that any physical contact with Brown in the car was consensual and when he tried to go too far, she complained and he stopped and apologized.
She said she reported the incident as an attempted rape so police would take her story more seriously and help her get reimbursement for her phone. She also testified that police and the prosecutors in the case coerced her into filing a statement charging Brown with sexual assault and made her sign written statements that she did not understand.
Nakamine, who has lived in Japan for 18 years, said she could not read or write Japanese and officials used legal terms she did not understand.
Prosecutors argued she was angry and — almost until she testified in court — had insisted Brown be punished.
Brown, wearing a charcoal gray suit, blue shirt and yellow striped tie, stood out in the Naha District courtroom with his high and tight Marine haircut. He stifled yawns and appeared to doze a few times during the hours it took his attorneys to read their 117-page final argument.
But when he took the stand and charged the three-judge panel with being biased in favor of the prosecution, he spoke in a strong, clear voice.
“I asked my attorney to ask the question of this panel whether or not I was presumed innocent until proven guilty and was stunned that the court would not immediately concur,” Brown said.
He said the prosecution’s case was riddled with inconsistencies and false assumptions that the judges had chosen to ignore when the defense objected.
He said statements had been changed to fit a theory of a crime that had not happened. Early in the investigation, one policewoman’s superiors told her to return to Nakamine to get another statement “because the first one was not strong enough.”
“That is the closest we will see to an admission that the police manufactured this case,” Brown said.
In closing arguments, defense attorneys Toshimitsu Takaesu and Takashi Takano claimed that even when first questioned by police on Nov. 2, 2002, Nakamine repeatedly said she wanted not to press charges but only an apology and a new phone. They said her inability to understand Japanese and the lack of a translator rendered her statements inadmissible. They also claimed prosecutors failed to rein in police even after they realized the incident had been mishandled, “handling the case much differently than other similar cases.”
“The prosecution failed to find facts, sometimes rejected court orders,” they charged.
Brown’s voice cracked when he spoke of his feelings for Okinawa. “I love Okinawa,” he said. “I have enjoyed living here immensely. My son was born here. I worked hard to get stationed here a second time.
“My deepest hurt comes from knowing that I am the focus of allegations that disturbed the Okinawan people. I know that these wounds are very real and very deep. I will always carry deep remorse for that.”
He admitted he first gave police a false story. “I was very afraid that if I told the truth, parts of it would be taken out of context and used to incriminate myself,” he said. “I knew the allegation of attempted rape was a complete lie and I lied in response.”
He contended that politics spurred the case against him, saying, “There are those opposed to our bases who wish to cast Americans as a danger to Okinawa.” But he said he trusted the court to “be just and deliver a correct verdict.”
On April 22, prosecutor Takeshi Oda asked that Brown be found guilty of attempted rape and destruction of personal property and sentenced to three years at hard labor.
The court will render its verdict July 8.
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.