Marine in attempted-rape case out on bail
May 18, 2003
NAHA, Okinawa — Nearly five months after he was indicted and confined to a Japanese jail on a charge of attempted rape, Marine Maj. Michael Brown was released on bail Friday.
But even though his wife and two children still live in Gushikawa, Brown is not home yet. The 19-year Marine veteran will be restricted to Camp Courtney while the trial continues, said attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu. The bail was set at 10 million yen, roughly $86,000, and the next hearing is May 27.
The granting of bail was the fifth ruling on a bail application made by Brown’s defense. Four previous motions were denied because the three-judge panel said Brown might “tamper with evidence” if released.
“They were afraid he would talk to the victim or other witnesses,” Takaesu said. “But since the alleged victim has already testified and indicated to the court that she has no wish to punish him, there was no longer any reason to hold him.”
Brown will stay in bachelor officers’ quarters while restricted to the base, Takaesu said.
The bail was granted just three days after the alleged victim in the case, a woman from the Philippines who worked as a bartender at the base’s officers club, testified that she had never intended for the case to go to trial.
An employee of Plenty Staff, an Okinawa company that provides temporary workers for U.S. military bases, she claimed she was coerced by police, prosecutors and her employer to press charges against Brown.
During her televised testimony from another room in the courthouse, she said she had forgiven Brown and did not want to punish him.
According to the woman’s complaint to police, she gave Brown a ride from Camp Courtney to his off-base house on Nov. 2 after the club closed. She told police he assaulted her twice when she parked her car on a deserted road.
Brown, assigned to the command element of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, pleaded not guilty to the sexual assault charge and a companion complaint that he destroyed the woman’s phone when she attempted to call police.
Brown’s family received the word late Thursday that bail might be granted.
“They are ecstatic,” said Michael Griffith, an American lawyer hired to assist Takaesu. “I think the court saw the injustice of holding him in jail any longer. Especially since the woman has testified that anything that may have gone on between them was consensual and she did not want to prosecute. No crime had been committed.”
Before he returned to the United States later that night, Griffith said the defense team was working to convince prosecutors to apply for a dismissal of the charges. Under Japanese law, the prosecution cannot drop a charge after indictment. It is up to the judges to decide, Griffith said.
“We hope to have this gross injustice over soon,” he said. “An innocent man has been in what has been solitary confinement for five months.”
The cross-examination of the alleged victim, who is married to an Okinawa man and has lived in Japan for 17 years, is expected to conclude at the next hearing. Future court sessions are tentatively scheduled through July.