Sailors plead guilty in rape case that sparked Japan curfew
By TRAVIS J. TRITTEN AND CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 25, 2013
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Two U.S. sailors pleaded guilty Tuesday to raping and robbing an Okinawan woman in October, a case that led the military to impose a Japan-wide curfew for all American servicemembers.
Seaman Christopher Browning, 24, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker, 23, were accused of carrying the woman to an apartment building parking lot and raping her for nearly an hour. Browning was also charged with stealing 7,000 yen (about $87) from her bag.
The guilty pleas came at the start of the sailors’ trial in a Japanese court. Prosecutors are expected to propose sentences on Wednesday, and the court will issue the final verdicts and sentences on Friday.
The case outraged Okinawans, many who have harbored ill feelings toward the U.S. military since a 1995 incident in which three servicemembers abducted and raped a 12-year-old Okinawan girl.
The victim in the case was walking home from work early on the morning of Oct. 16 near Kadena Air Base, according to details presented by the prosecution at the trial Tuesday. Dozierwalker asked Browning if he wanted to rape the woman and Browning said he did.
The sailors spoke to the woman in broken Japanese, but she ignored them, prosecutors said. They followed her to her apartment door and grabbed her from behind. One sailor covered her mouth; the other grabbed her by the legs. They then took her to the parking lot where they repeatedly choked and raped her.
Afterward, Dozierwalker and Browning went to a bar and bought alcohol with the money stolen from the woman’s bag, according to prosecutors.
The entire 50-minute assault was captured on security cameras and was shown to the Japanese jury Tuesday.
“The pain in my neck and throat will go away some day, but the pain, humiliation and despair that I experienced will never go away,” according to a written statement by the victim read to the court. “I know it will stay with me and continue to haunt me. I will never forgive them.”
The woman was not present at the trial, and Japanese authorities have shielded her identity.
Police apprehended Browning and Dozierwalker at a nearby hotel later that morning. The two sailors, assigned to Naval Air Station Fort Worth, Texas, were scheduled to return to the United States the day of the incident.
During the trial, each of the sailors claimed they had only followed the other and denied instigating the attack.
Off-base incidents involving servicemembers have recently complicated relations with the Okinawans that already were strained. Crime, particularly rape, remains a top reason why many have demanded reductions in the large U.S. military presence on the island, where most American troops in Japan are based.
Following the incident, U.S. commanders in Japan imposed an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew that recently was relaxed by an hour. Further alcohol-fueled off-base misbehavior sparked restrictions on drinking.