Major accused in Okinawa assault grateful for release on bail
CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa — In his first public statement since his indictment Dec. 19, Marine Maj. Michael Brown said he bears no ill will toward his jailers.
Brown — charged with trying to sexually assault a Philippine bartender Nov. 2 when she gave him a lift home from the Camp Courtney officers club — was released on bail Friday. It was his fifth attempt since his indictment to gain release from the Naha Detention Center, where he was kept in what amounted to solitary confinement.
“We are profoundly grateful for this day,” Brown said in a handwritten note. “I would like to thank the judges for allowing bail so that I could be with my wife and children.”
Brown’s wife and two children, ages 4 and 2, live off base. During his incarceration, his wife had told the kids their father was away on deployment.
“Now they are being told he has to work at the base and can’t come home yet,” Brown’s brother, Raymond “Buck” Brown, 41, said Sunday. The Marine officer is to remain confined to Camp Courtney during the remainder of the trial.
Buck Brown said the children visited their father on the base Saturday. “They were thrilled to see their dad,” he said, adding that his brother spent his first semi-free weekend “decompressing.”
“It’s a readjustment, that’s for sure,” Buck Brown said.
The Marine has been unable to go home since mid-November, when Japanese police informed military authorities he was under investigation for the attempted rape of the bartender. He also is charged with destroying private property — allegedly throwing the woman’s cellular phone into a stream when she threatened to call police.
Brown pleaded not guilty to both charges. He contends she became angry when he rebuffed her sexual advances.
The case gained international attention when U.S. officials refused to hand Brown over to Japanese police prior to his indictment, outraging local officials who want a change in the status of forces agreement between the two countries.
They want the SOFA changed to grant Japanese authorities immediate custody of all U.S. servicemembers charged with crimes committed outside the bases.
A 19-year Marine veteran assigned to the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force’s command element, Brown spent his 40th birthday behind bars.
But he wrote that he was treated well during his confinement.
“I am very impressed by the professionalism demonstrated by the staff of the Naha Detention Center,” he wrote. “My family and I are very fond of the friendship and hospitality we have been shown by the Okinawan people. The respectful and courteous manner in which the staff treated me and my visitors was very much in keeping with the Okinawan tradition.
“We are extremely grateful,” he said.
“I was blown away by his attitude,” his brother said. “Michael said he had made some good friends with the guards. For myself, it’s been a full 180-degrees change in attitude. When I came to Okinawa I was expecting bad things and I didn’t see them.”
He attended the May 13 hearing in which his brother’s accuser said she did not want to press charges, saying her employer, police and prosecutors coerced her into filing the criminal complaints.
“I came out of the courtroom pleasantly surprised,” Buck Brown said. “The judges were giving each side as much leeway as they could. It was fair.”
Defense attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu said he will ask the judges to dismiss the charges when the prosecution completes its case May 27.
“I think the judges see where justice lies in this case,” Takaesu said. “That’s why they — for the first time in a case of this kind on Okinawa — granted bail.”
Brown’s family members said although they hope the end is near, they are prepared for the trial to continue another month.
“Needless to say this is one time we did not mind being woken up at 04:00,” Raymonde Brown, the major’s mother, said in an e-mail after his transfer from the Japanese jail to the U.S. base. “We are very happy to know he is out of there. Nevertheless we are reluctant to celebrate too much at this point since there are more court dates.”
Of her son’s accuser, the mother said, “I am relieved that she finally decided to come out with the truth behind the drafting of the original complaint.”
Prosecutors have indicated they will proceed with the case, maintaining the woman filed the charges — and they proceeded with an indictment — in good faith. It was only recently, they claim, that she changed her mind.
Buck Brown said, “It all depends on the judges. I told my brother to hang in there; it’s not quite over yet.”
Having his brother out of jail will help in preparing his defense, he said.
“When he was in the detention center, only one person at a time could visit,” he said. “It was extremely difficult to help prepare a case. Now, we can all sit around and bounce ideas off each other and truly work as a team.”