KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Should Japanese authorities not pursue charges against an Air Force spouse they suspect beat his stepson to death, Kadena officials could ask the Department of Justice to take the case.

That’s the only thing they can do, since Roberto Deleon is a civilian.

“We don’t have the authority to prosecute him," Maj. Matthew Grant, 18th Wing deputy staff judge advocate, said. “We can’t bring him to court-martial.”

Civilian dependents are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but a law passed by Congress in 2000 called the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, or MEJA, would allow Kadena to refer the case to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution.

Before the law, if the host nation of an overseas military base declined to press charges, the United States had no way of prosecuting a civilian dependent.

If the Justice Department decided to take up the case, it would be given to the district attorney in the state where Deleon lived before moving to Okinawa as a SOFA-status dependent of his wife, Staff Sgt. Sabrina Deleon.

But Kadena would have the “responsibility to continue to investigate and develop the MEJA case,” Grant said.

Right now, though, Japan has primary jurisdiction over the case.

And with any crime when that is the situation, the military is “reticent to step on their investigation,” Grant said.

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