Filipina testifies to major's innocence
By DAVID ALLEN AND CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 28, 2003
NAHA, Okinawa — Victoria Nakamine was unshakable during her third day of testimony in the sexual assault trial of Marine Major Michael Brown.
Testifying via closed-circuit television, the former Camp Courtney officers’ club barmaid was resolute during four hours of questioning by lawyers and the three-judge panel in Naha District Court. She said she wanted to withdraw the complaint she signed against the 19-year Marine veteran.
“He didn’t attempt to rape me,” she said in response to a question by Chief Judge Nobuyuki Yokota.
Nakamine said she was not the victim of a sexual crime. Any contact with the major was consensual, she’d testified previously. And when the major touched and kissed her, she said, she told him to stop and he did.
Brown pleaded not guilty to attempted rape and destruction of private property. He’s denied he had any sexual contact with the woman, saying she got angry when he rebuffed her advances.
Nakamine, a Philippines native, said she’s tried ever since the Nov. 2 incident to convince police and prosecutors she did not want to press charges against the man to whom she’d given a ride home from the club.
She said Brown fondled her and kissed her breast when they were parked along a deserted road near the base.
She resisted, at one point threatening to call police. That’s when he took her cellular phone and threw it into a nearby stream, she said, then left the car.
During Tuesday’s testimony, she said she went to Camp Courtney’s main gate to report the incident, embellishing it so the military police would take her seriously and apprehend Brown.
“I just wanted them to catch him, you know, and apologize to me,” she said.
But instead of seeking Brown, Nakamine said, the MPs told her because the incident happened outside the base, she’d have to make a report to the Okinawa police.
In the following months, the case grew out of control, she said.
She testified she repeatedly told police and prosecutors she did not want to press criminal charges, but was informed she could withdraw the charges only in court. She said that she understands little Japanese and was confused by the statements police and prosecutors had her sign.
To test her knowledge of Japanese, defense attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu asked if she knew the meaning of 57 Japanese words contained in her statement to prosecutors. She said she knew only five.
Among the words she missed were “kokuso,” meaning to prosecute; “kyofukan,” meaning a sense of fear; and “soguu,” meaning encounter.
Prosecutor Tsuyoshi Satake asked Nakamine why she did not tell him she wanted to drop the charges but instead wrote the judges claiming she’d been coerced by her employer, police and prosecutors to press the case.
“Why did you sign the complaint?” Satake asked.
“Because I thought that if I sign already everything is done and I don’t have to stand as a witness,” she said.
Brown stoically sat alone throughout the hearing. Because he was released on bail after a May 13 hearing, the guards that usually kept him company in the courtroom were absent. Periodically, he looked toward his wife and brother in the courtroom’s packed, cramped public section and smiled wanly.
Nakamine testified via closed-circuit television; screens facing Brown and the public were left blank.
Brown’s lawyer asked why she’d exaggerated what happened in her car. “Because I wanted them — the MPs — to catch him, you know?” she said.
“So you told a lie because you wanted them to catch him, not to punish him?” Takaesu asked.
Nakamine said she had become so distraught at how the case had grown out of proportion that she began to make mistakes at work and had to quit. She then asked a Philippine attorney who lives on Okinawa to help her drop the charges, the woman testified.
The lawyer told her Brown’s mother already had called him but he helped her contact the Philippine embassy in Tokyo and to write a statement for the judges, Nakamine said. She said he paid her way to Tokyo, but she received nothing else and had no contact with anyone else connected with the case.
Finally, it was the judges’ turn to ask questions.
“So, your feeling now is that you do not want to punish the accused?” one asked.
“Yes,” Nakamine answered.
“Are you angry at him?” asked Chief Judge Yokota.
“No,” she said.
“Because he didn’t attempt to rape me,” Nakamine said. “Before, I was angry at him for throwing away my cell phone. But not now.”
Just before the trial recessed, Takaesu moved to dismiss the charges, based on Nakamine’s testimony. He said he hoped the judges would rule on his motion before the next court session June 4.