Marine general expresses regret to Okinawa governor over alleged rape
By CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 16, 2016
NAHA, Okinawa — The head of U.S. Marines in Japan apologized Wednesday to Okinawa’s governor for the alleged rape of a Japanese woman by an American sailor and ensured him the military will cooperate thoroughly with the investigation.
Lt. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, III Marine Expeditionary Forces commander, visited Gov. Takeshi Onaga at his Naha office Wednesday in response to the arrest of Seaman Apprentice Justin Castellanos, 24, who is assigned to Camp Schwab.
Police say Castellanos found the tourist intoxicated and asleep in a hotel hallway, took her into his room and raped her between 1 and 4 a.m. Sunday.
A friend of the victim, who is in her 40s, called police after she heard the woman screaming for help and found her in Castellanos’ room with the suspect, who was a stranger to them, police said.
Castellanos reportedly told investigators he was not in his room when the alleged assault occurred and was drinking in a bar instead, police said.
“I express my deepest regret and remorse at the incident,” Nicholson told Onaga at the beginning of their half-hour meeting. “Today, I came here to represent 27,000 uniformed members, 17,000 families, 4,000 civilians, 50,000 Americans. The allegation against the specific individual is a great shame and dishonor of us all.”
Onaga urged Nicholson to enforce stricter discipline over servicemembers on the island and to take preventive measures as quickly as possible.
“The incident this time is a heinous nature that brings back people of Okinawa memories of unfortunate incidents in the past,” Onaga said, adding that U.S. servicemembers on Okinawa have committed similar crimes over the years.
Nicholson told Onaga the military has already started training this week for servicemembers stationed on Okinawa.
On Monday, Vice Gov. Mitsuo Ageda filed a protest over the incident with the Okinawa Liaison Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Okinawa Defense Bureau.
Okinawa City Mayor Sachio Kuwae, who represents municipalities that host military bases on Okinawa, lodged a protest Tuesday with the Okinawa Area Coordinator’s Office and American Consulate Naha. Naha City Council is expected to adopt a protest resolution Thursday.
An Okinawa women’s group, organized after the 1995 rape of a school girl by three U.S. servicemembers, demanded on Tuesday the enforcement of the existing curfew for all servicemembers on the island that was imposed after the rape of a woman by two Navy sailors in 2012.
While crimes committed by American servicemembers have been on the decline in recent years, sexual assaults continue to evoke resentments over concentration of military bases on Okinawa, which hosts about half of the troops stationed in Japan.