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Pacific edition, Sunday, December 23, 2007

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The USS Blue Ridge sailor accused of punching two middle-aged Japanese women in Yokosuka was released after being held in Japanese custody for almost 20 days.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Jon Michael Cockrell was ordered to pay a 300,000 yen fine — about $2,650 — and was released Thursday, a Yokohama District Public Prosecutor’s Office spokesman said Friday.

Authorities said Cockrell attacked two 50-year-old women on a street in Yokosuka’s Hinode district in the early hours of Dec. 2. According to police, the sailor hit them in the head from behind, leaving them with bruises on their heads and faces.

Cockrell, 30, was intoxicated at the time of the incident, and told investigators he didn’t remember anything that happened, police said.

He remained in police custody for the requisite 13 days prosecutors can take to determine whether they will press charges against someone, in accordance with Japanese law.

The Yokohama District Public Prosecutor’s Office received a 10-day extension to make a determination but released Cockrell before the deadline.

The Navy will “review the case and take appropriate action as needed,” said Commander U.S. Naval Forces Japan spokesman David Waterman.

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