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Former Okinawa prosecutor Toshimitsu Takaesu, left, and New York lawyer Michael Griffith are the new defense team for Maj. Michael Brown, whose trial was to start Thursday. Both are specialists in defending Americans charged with crimes in foreign countries.

Former Okinawa prosecutor Toshimitsu Takaesu, left, and New York lawyer Michael Griffith are the new defense team for Maj. Michael Brown, whose trial was to start Thursday. Both are specialists in defending Americans charged with crimes in foreign countries. (David Allen / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The trial of Marine Maj. Michael Brown on charges of attempted rape was scheduled to begin Thursday in Naha District Court.

Brown, 40, assigned to the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force’s command element, is charged with attempting to rape an employee of the Camp Courtney officers club Nov. 2 as she drove him to his off-base home in Gushikawa. He’s also charged with destroying her cellular phone.

He has been held at the Naha Detention Center, awaiting trial.

Okinawa police and prosecutors have refused to release the name of Brown’s accuser, citing the need to protect alleged victims of sexual crimes.

According to the defense team, which cites “police reports,” the woman making the accusation against Brown is from the Philippines but has been married to an Okinawa man for 20 years.

The major denies the charges, saying the woman became upset when he spurned her sexual advances. He said she grabbed his wallet and he tossed her phone into a stream after she refused to return it.

The case gained international attention when U.S. officials refused to hand Brown over to Japanese police after they obtained an arrest warrant on Dec. 3. This outraged Okinawa officials who want a change in the status of forces agreement that would give them immediate custody of all American servicemembers charged with off-base crimes.

Brown had been restricted to bachelor officers quarters on Camp Courtney during the Okinawa police investigation. He was turned over to Japanese police when he was indicted Dec. 19, in accordance with the SOFA.

Brown is expected to do something relatively rare in a Japanese criminal court when he appears Thursday: He will plead not guilty.

Critics of the Japanese system have said it is tilted in favor of convictions, with 95 percent of all defendants pleading guilty and 99 percent of all cases ending with convictions.

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