Japan's high court blocks Marine's appeal
Japan’s Supreme Court on Thursday in effect upheld Marine Maj. Michael Brown’s conviction on charges of an attempted indecent act, all but ending Brown’s long battle to have his name cleared through the Japanese legal system.
The court agreed with the Fukokua High Court’s ruling that Brown’s appeal was invalid because he submitted a photocopy of the appeal petition, not the original document.
“The petition without a signature of the author of the document should be deemed null, even if the paper bares a photocopied signature of the author,” it stated. “The court thus concurs with the original judgment.”
Brown’s only remaining option would be to ask for a retrial, which would be difficult, said Brown defense counsel Toshimitsu Takaesu.
Brown originally was charged with attempting to rape a Filipina waitress, who worked at the Camp Courtney officers club, in November 2002.
After a 19-month trial, in which the woman retracted the story she gave police, Brown was found guilty in July 2004 of attempting to commit an indecent act with her.
He was sentenced to a one-year suspended prison sentence, which he will not have to serve if he stays out of legal trouble for three years.
Brown appealed the sentence, arguing that the Naha District Court lacked authority to find him guilty of a lesser charge.
Takaesu expressed dissatisfaction with this week’s ruling.
“Even if it was not the original, the court did acknowledge that it was an authentic signature of the defendant,” he said. “That should be sufficient enough to prove the genuine will of the defendant to appeal. It’s a mere formality, completely ignoring the rights of a defendant.”
The charge stemmed from an incident that occurred inside the woman’s car after she offered to drive Brown from the club to his off-base home and they parked along a quiet, riverside road to talk.
Brown also was found guilty of destroying her cell phone by throwing it into the river after she said she’d call police — a statement she since has said was a joke.
Thursday evening, Brown declined to discuss the ruling, deferring all comment to Takaesu — who then said Brown will follow the Marine Corps’s guidance in taking his next step.
After being indicted on Dec. 19, 2002, the 20-year Marine spent several months in Japanese custody until bail was granted in May 2003. The Marine Corps has not stated whether Brown now might face military sanctions.
Brown was scheduled to move to another duty location in northern Virginia in 2004, where his family already had relocated. Assigned to Camp Courtney, he has remained on international hold status and confined to Okinawa since 2003, except for a two-week leave to help move his family.
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.