Marine's accuser got funds on eve of recant, says prosecution
NAHA, Okinawa — The day before Victoria Nakamine recanted a sexual-assault charge she made against a Marine major, $13,500 was deposited into her bank account, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The money’s source, however, was not disclosed and the prosecution later backed away from drawing any direct connections between Nakamine and Maj. Michael Brown, 40, who’s on trial for attempting to rape her and then destroying her cell phone when she attempted to call police Nov. 2.
Tuesday also was the first time since he was indicted Dec. 19 that Brown had a chance to testify. But when he took the stand, there was much he didn’t want to talk about.
When asked why his statements to police and prosecutors were at odds with his attorney’s opening statement in May, Brown refused to discuss any details of the alleged crime.
Brown, assigned to the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force’s command element at Camp Courtney, is accused of attempting to rape Nakamine, employed as a barmaid at the base officers club, after she offered him a ride home when the club closed. The incident allegedly occurred on a deserted road near the base.
In a surprise move May 1, Nakamine, testifying via closed-circuit television from another room in the Naha District Court Building, said she did not want to punish Brown and instead wished to read a prepared statement.
The statement, revealed at a hearing two weeks later, alleged that police and prosecutors pressured her to file charges against Brown.
After Tuesday’s hearing, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Hiroyuki Kawami said information concerning the deposit of 1.58 million yen into her account was submitted as evidence to show that Nakamine lied to prosecutors when asked whether she had received any monetary assistance from any third parties during the trial.
Nakamine, who had been unemployed since April, said she had not received any payments, Kawami said.
“I would not say that receiving the money made her change her statement,” he said. “But she did change her statement, and her testimony in court was not the truth.
“She said that she did not receive any sizable amount of money while she actually did. But we have no intention to prove that she changed her statement because of the money. It is also not necessary to prove who influenced her to change her statement.
“Our goal is to prove that she stated the facts in her original statements.”
During Tuesday’s hearing, assistant prosecutor Masako Kariya read a statement defending the actions taken by police and prosecution in seeking an indictment against Brown. She said Nakamine, a Filipina married to a Japanese man, understood what she was doing when she filed the complaint against Brown.
“Her ability to understand Japanese was more than sufficient,” she said. “She clearly understood what it would mean to go to trial, and she said she wanted to punish the offender.”
Kariya said Nakamine had been swayed by an unnamed third party into changing her story during the trial.
“It is quite clear that when the victim was approached by a third party, she was influenced to make changes to her statement,” she said.
At an earlier hearing, it was disclosed that Nakamine had contacted Makoto Tanizoe, a Philippine lawyer who practices on Okinawa. Kariya said Nakamine’s statement alleging impropriety on the part of police and prosecutors contained language “which indicates she was given advice by a lawyer or someone knowledgeable with legal terms.”
“Based on these facts, I must say that the victim clearly changed her statement because of the influence of a lot of people after the accused was indicted,” Kariya told the three-judge panel hearing the case. But she stopped short of accusing Brown’s family or defense.
She argued that the judges should discount Nakamine’s testimony and rely on the statements she made prior to the indictment.
Brown took the stand Tuesday to clarify statements he gave to Japanese investigators prior to his indictment. He originally had contended Nakamine became outraged when he spurned her sexual advances, telling police she snatched his wallet and he retaliated by grabbing her cell phone and throwing it away.
However, defense attorney Toshimitsu Takaesu told the court in June that Brown had not told police the truth. He said Brown had arranged with the club manager to have sex with Nakamine, but she resisted his advances.
Brown rebuffed prosecutor Tsuyoshi Satake’s attempts to give his side of the story.
“Your attorney said you gave a false statement?” Satake asked.
“Yes,” Brown said.
“So, your original statement that she made sexual advances was false?” the prosecutor asked.
“I am not going to answer that,” Brown said.
After a few more attempts to get Brown to talk about the incident, Satake asked, “Can you tell me why you are not going to answer?”
“Because I want the opportunity for this court to see publicly the type of corruption and distortion of evidence by the police and the prosecutor,” Brown answered. “I’m not going back and testifying to the actions of that night at this time.”
After the hearing, Takaesu said there was another reason Brown was reluctant to testify.
“He is concerned about what will happen to him when this trial is all over,” Takaesu said. “Even if he is found not guilty, there is the possibility the Marine Corps could take action against him based on testimony he gives at the trial.”
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.