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Soldier awaits decision on possible rape trial

Date Posted: 2008-10-10

Attorneys for Ronald Hopstock Jr. argued the government has no case against the Army specialist during a preliminary hearing at Torii Station, and are now waiting for the presiding officer to make a decision whether there’s enough evidence to charge the soldier with raping a young Filipina bargirl and send the case to courts martial.

Hopstock is accused of raping the 22-year-old bar worker at an Okinawa City hotel February 17th after paying the Mermaid Club a $200 fee to take her out of the bar. He has steadfastly contended sex with the girl known as Hazel, to protect her identity, was consensual. The military’s Article 32 hearing is similar to civilian court preliminary hearings to determine if enough evidence is available to warrant a trial.

Lt. Col. Seth Sherwood, the presiding officer, says he’ll issue a ruling within a few weeks whether the charges be dropped or referred to court martial. He heard testimony from both the prosecution, which maintains Hopstock took an innocent girl to the hotel, disregarded her appeals to leave her alone, and raped her, and from defense attorneys who argued Hazel knew the hotel visit was for sex, and willingly participated.

The February incident at Okinawa City’s New Century Hotel was first investigated by Japanese police and prosecutors. They dropped the case in May following a three-month investigation, saying there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Hopstock. The Army immediately began took jurisdiction May 15th and began its own investigation that led to this week’s hearings.

The 25-year-old Hopstock has not waivered in his testimony to both Japanese and American Criminal Investigation Command investigators, officials admit, that he had consensual sex with the bar dancer he’d picked up in the Okinawa City club. His attorneys cited numerous inconsistencies in the girl’s testimony, noting she had numerous opportunities to get away from Hopstock, and even talked to her Filipina friends on a cell phone while in the hotel room with him.

Hopstock, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, says he stopped having sex when the girl began bleeding, and wanted her to go to a hospital or clinic for treatment, but that she refused. The soldier’s chief attorney, Captain Tim Bilecki, says the girl’s delay in reporting the rape, despite ample opportunities to do so over a many-hours period, is evidence there was no rape.

Bilecki called the military investigation of his client “a disgrace to the CID” and said it was ”the sloppiest investigation Okinawa has ever seen.” He says CID investigators failed to adequately interview hospital personnel, hotel workers or other witnesses, including other bar workers who knew details of the case. Many of those girls have returned to the Philippines.

The prosecutor, Captain William Suddeth, dismissed Bilecki’s allegations of a flawed investigation, saying the government has presented a solid case.

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