Japanese court rejects Marine major's appeal of indecency conviction
January 30, 2005
NAHA, Okinawa — A Japanese appeals court Thursday dismissed Marine Maj. Michael Brown’s appeal of a July conviction on a charge of attempting to commit an indecent act with an officers club barmaid.
Without going into the merits of the appeal, the court rejected it on the grounds that the wrong paperwork was filed.
Brown, 41, a 20-year Marine veteran, originally was charged with attempting to rape a Philippine waitress who worked at the club on Camp Courtney after she gave him a ride from the club in November 2002. On July 8 he was found guilty on a lesser charge of attempting to commit an indecent act when they parked along a quiet road near the Tengan River in Gushikawa, near the base.
He also was found guilty of destroying the woman’s cell phone by throwing it in the river.
The court sentenced Brown to one year in prison, suspended for three years. In the middle of the 19-month trial, the alleged victim testified Brown never had attempted to rape her. However, the three-judge panel allowed the case to continue, accepting the prosecution’s contention that the charge was still valid based on the woman’s statements to police and prosecutors just after the incident.
Brown appealed the conviction, claiming the Naha District Court did not have the authority to find him guilty of the lesser charge. He has remained on Okinawa on an administrative hold pending the outcome of the appeal.
“The charge on which I was convicted was never indicted (sic), nor was I arraigned on said charge,” Brown told Stars and Stripes in a faxed message when he filed the appeal in July.
His attorney, Toshimitsu Takaesu, said he was notified of the Fukuoka High Court’s Naha Branch decision Friday.
“They said we did not file the original paperwork,” Takaesu said in a telephone interview. “A copy of the appeal was filed by mistake.”
“We knew the court would use a dirty trick to dismiss this,” he said. “They did not want to examine the case because there was no other option for them other than to reverse the decision of the lower court. The sentence the lower court handed down was for a charge that had not been examined.”
The appeals court released copies of its finding to the media Friday afternoon.
“The written appeal filed with the court was a photocopied document, including the signature of the defendant,” the court ruled.
Takaesu said the mistake was not his. He said he gave the court clerk the original paperwork and a copy to officially date with a time stamp, noting the appeal was filed on time.
He said he had filed the appeal at 11:45 p.m. on July 22, with 15 minutes to spare before the filing deadline. They filed so close to the deadline in order to prevent the prosecution from filing a counterappeal, he said.
The clerk, Takaesu said, mistakenly gave him back the original and filed the copy with the court. “I am laughing at the decision,” he said. “They are the ones who lost the original document. We are planning to file an appeal Saturday against the high court’s decision.”
The court chided Takaesu for not filing the appeal earlier.
“If the defendant and his attorney were confident in their claim and seriously stuck to their claim, regardless of what the response of the prosecution would have been, there should not have been any obstacle for them to file the appeal at an early stage, within the period allowed for appeal,” the court stated.
“If the defendant and attorney had taken such response, even if they made a mistake of filing a photocopied document, they would have enough time to correct the mistake.”
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.