Rape allegations against Marine staff sergeant spark Okinawa protests
By CHIYOMI SUMIDA AND DAVID ALLEN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 14, 2008
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Okinawa police forwarded a charge of rape against a Marine staff sergeant to the Naha District Public Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday, while protests against the alleged crime began to grow.
Two Okinawa mayors filed formal complaints with U.S. and Japanese government officials and about 300 people protested in front of the Headquarters Gate of Camp Foster on Tuesday evening.
Meanwhile, Staff Sgt. Tyrone Luther Hadnott, 38, assigned to Camp Courtney, remained in custody in the prefectural police department’s Okinawa City station. He was arrested early Monday morning on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old Okinawan girl Sunday night in his van parked on a roadside in Chatan, near Camp Foster.
On Tuesday afternoon he was transported to the prosecutor’s office in Naha for questioning — without a defense attorney present — that can continue for another 20 days before an indictment is sought. A police spokesman said Hadnott continues to deny raping the girl, saying only that he tried to kiss her and pressed himself against her inside the van.
He reportedly told investigators that he did not know the girl was underage, the spokesman said.
The alleged crime has sparked criticism from Okinawans who harbor memories of an incident in 1995 when two Marines and a Navy corpsman abducted and raped a 12-year-old girl in the village of Kin, and it has given fuel to anti-base activists.
On Okinawa, the mayors of Okinawa City and Chatan jointly delivered formal complaints denouncing the alleged crime to Marine Corps headquarters on Camp Foster, the American consulate in Urasoe, the Naha Defense Bureau and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Okinawa Office.
“There is no excuse for a 38-year-old servicemember, a man who is in a leadership position, to commit such a crime,” Chatan Mayor Masaharu Nogumi said following a visit to Special Ambassador Tadashi Imai of the foreign ministry. “There are growing fears among Okinawa residents because of the fact that the suspect lives in the local community.”
Okinawa City Mayor Mitsuko Tomon said she had doubts about the effectiveness of measures taken by the U.S. military to prevent crimes.
“In our city, a rape incident occurred in October and then a taxi robbery in January,” she said. “Each time, we call for preventive measures and hope it’s the last one. But these things keep happening.”
In Tokyo, Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba expressed his concern about what effect the rape case might have on the planned realignment of U.S. forces in Japan.
“I feel indignant about the incident and about the fact that such crimes continue to occur,” he told reporters Tuesday during a regular news conference.
He said the crime could affect the sentiments of Okinawans concerning a proposal to build a facility to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma at Henoko, along the island’s northeast coast, as well as the relationship between the United States and Japan.
According to police reports, Hadnott approached three girls at about 8 p.m. Sunday near Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop in Koza Music Town on Gate 2 Street in Okinawa City.
“He talked to one of the girls, the victim, because he liked the baggy pants she was wearing,” a police spokesman said.
The officer said Hadnott told prosecutors Tuesday that the girl accepted Hadnott’s offer to drive her to her home, but on the way he suggested they stop by his home in Kitanakagusuku, and she accepted it.
But soon after they arrived, Hadnott made sexual advances to the girl and she became frightened and ran out of the house, the police spokesman said. Hadnott allegedly followed her in his van, caught up to her and calmed her down, offering again to drive her home.
Instead, they drove around for a while, first to the Futenma district of Ginowan and then to Sunabe Sea Wall, before Hadnott parked the van near Araha Park in Chatan, police said. During the ride, the girl called a male friend and asked for help.
When her phone went dead, the friend called her family and police, who found the girl squatting on the curb near a noodle shop at 10:50 p.m., the spokesman said. She told the officers she had been raped.
Police found Hadnott sitting in his van parked outside his home near Awase Golf Course. He was arrested at 2:13 a.m. Monday.
Police said they are awaiting results of DNA tests and are searching for any evidence inside Hadnott’s vehicle, which was impounded along with his motorcycle on Monday.