Sailors found guilty of raping Okinawa woman

A pair of U.S. Navy sailors whose rape of a woman in Okinawa City last fall led to curfews and restrictions on off-base drinking have been found guilty of the crime by a Japanese court.

In the lay judge trial, Naha District Court sentenced Seaman Christopher Browning, 24, to 10 years in prison and Petty Officer Third Class Skyler Dozierwalker, 23, to nine years. Prosecutors had demanded a prison sentence of 12 years for Browning and 10 years for Dozierwalker.

According to the ruling, the two raped the woman on a street in the small hours of Oct. 16th, causing her injuries that required about two weeks to heal. Browning also robbed her of about ¥7,000 in cash. During the trial, Browning and Dozierwalker broadly admitted the charges and expressed apologies to the victim. Dozierwalker also revealed in the court that they believed they could avoid arrest because they were scheduled to leave Japan soon after the crime.  The two were on temporary duty in Okinawa at the time of the crime.

Security cameras documented the crime, and videotapes were shown to the court.  Testimony was also included showing that the two sailors took the stolen cash and went to a bar, where they drank after the incident.

In handing down the sentences, presiding judge Hideyuki Suzuki accused the two sailors’ acts as being malicious and having hurt the victim’s dignity. He also read out the lay judges’ message saying that the two may think the sentences are tough but that the lay judges, as citizens in Okinawa, and the victim have much harder feelings.

The incident increased frustration in local communities at the heavy U.S. presence in Okinawa and led the U.S. military to introduce a nighttime curfew for all U.S. servicemen in Japan on Oct. 19th. The curfew was lifted for certain ranks last month.