Japanese officials ask Sasebo commander to enforce discipline
SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Japanese officials want Sasebo’s commander to crack down on his troops following Saturday’s arrest of a sailor accused of raping a local woman.
Nagasaki Prefecture’s governor, Sasebo city’s mayor and base liaison officials wrote the base asking that the commander enforce discipline and properly educate his personnel, a Sasebo spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Markies Steven Bates, 24, was arrested by Japanese police Saturday morning in connection with the alleged rape of a 19-year-old woman in Sasebo. He remained in Japanese custody Tuesday; no indictment had been filed.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Alfred Thomas O’Donnell, 21, of the USS Essex, was indicted Dec. 25 and placed in custody the same day on an indecent assault charge, said Lt. j.g. Jereal E. Dorsey, Amphibious Task Force 76 spokesman.
O’Donnell remains in Japanese custody, Dorsey said.
“Petty Officer O’Donnell has been read his SOFA rights by the CFAS SJA (Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo staff judge advocate),” he said. “We deeply regret the incident. Servicemembers forward-deployed to Sasebo are considered goodwill ambassadors and are expected to behave in accordance with the laws and guidelines of the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice), as well as the host nation.”
O’Donnell is accused of punching a 23-year-old Japanese woman who was jogging Oct. 5 in Nimitz park, a military recreational facility near the base, before he “got on her and tried to take her clothes off,” the Asahi newspaper reported, citing the indictment.
Sasebo city Mayor Akira Mitsutake sent his letter to Capt. Michael L. James, Sasebo commander, on Monday. Deputy Mayor Nichiro Noguchi delivered the letter to base Chief of Staff Cmdr. Carol E. Shivers.
A copy, provided by the Sasebo base liaison office late Tuesday afternoon, read in part:
“An alleged sexual assault incident by a servicemember assigned to Sasebo Naval Base … attracted great concern of Sasebo city residents.” The incident will cast a “shadow over the Japan-U.S. friendships and good-neighbor relationships between the residents and base personnel.”
The command accepted the letters, said Charles T. Howard, Commander Fleet Activities Sasebo spokesman.
“We expect all of our servicemembers to respect local laws,” Howard said, “and when there are situations when they run afoul, they’ll be held responsible for their actions.”
Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station Commander Col. David Darrah instituted a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for his station’s servicemembers Thursday after city officials there complained about local crimes thought to involve U.S. servicemembers. He has not announced an end to the curfew, which also restricts to their quarters troops living off base.
Howard said nothing similar has been announced at Sasebo.
But in Tuesday’s department head meeting with James, the Sasebo commander, Saturday’s arrest “certainly was something that was discussed in terms of ‘Let’s … communicate the severity of what happened and the necessity to behave, to act accordingly,’” Howard said.
The Navy, he said, provides all incoming personnel, active duty and civilian, with a one-week indoctrination course in which they are briefed about issues including the status of forces agreement and proper behavior.
Howard said Navy leaders also stay in touch with those in their commands to deliver messages about safety, responsible drinking, designated driving and how they should dress and act.
Greg Tyler and T.D. Flack contributed to this report.