TOKYO (Various Sources) – A U.S. court martial sentenced Marine Staff Sergeant Tyrone Hadnott (38) to four years in prison on Friday for sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl on the southern island of Okinawa, in a case that has sparked widespread public anger. The case was a painful reminder for many of the gang rape of a 12-year-old girl by U.S. Marines in Okinawa in 1995, which provoked a wave of opposition to their presence
Hadnott was arrested by Japanese police on suspicion of rape following the incident in February, but released after the girl withdrew her complaint, a move some in Okinawa said was to escape public attention.Japanese prosecutors declined to indict Hadnott after the teenager dropped the case, apparently because she did not want to be in the public glare. The military then took up the case.
In February, Hadnott, who lived off base, picked up the girl on a motorbike and took her to his home. When she started crying, he offered to drive her to her home and allegedly raped her in his car, according to Japanese police.
Hadnott admitted touching the victim’s underwear but denied raping her. “I touched her in a sexual manner over clothing. I was gratifying my sexual desire, sir. (There is) no excuse for my action and no way to express how sorry I am,” he said.
During the court martial at Camp Foster, presiding judge Lieutenant Colonel David Oliver said Hadnott was “ignorant of her true age” but suggested he should have made more effort to find out.
Hadnott had only one witness, his mother, who told the court that his learning disability and mental immaturity must have led to the misconduct. “For the Marine Corps of the United States, Japan, and for the family involved, I’m so, sorry,” she said, weeping into a handkerchief as Hadnott rubbed his eyes.
The jury cleared Hadnott of rape and other charges including kidnapping through luring. Hadnott pleaded guilty only to abusive sexual contact, although he had faced a maximum of 15 years in prison for it.
Hadnott’s four year sentence means that he will serve three years in confinement, with the remaining one year suspended under a plea-bargain. He also will be given a dishonorable discharge at the half-day trial, a spokesman for Okinawa Marines said.
“Even though Hadnott was not prosecuted under the Japanese judicial system, the US Marine Corps found that there was enough evidence to prosecute him under the U.S. system.
Here is a story on the reaction in Okinawa:
By Chiyomi Sumida, Stars and Stripes, Pacific edition, Sunday, May 18, 2008[/quote]
NAHA, Okinawa — Okinawans had mixed reactions to Friday’s court-martial and sentencing of Marine Staff Sgt. Tyrone Hadnott, who was given 48 months of confinement and a dishonorable discharge for molesting a 14-year-old Okinawa girl in February.
“I do not quite get it,” said Shigeko Urasaki, a representative of an Okinawa women’s advocacy group, Women’s Net. “The sentence is too light for the vicious nature of the crime. What were the extenuating circumstances for his behavior?”
There were none, she said, adding that she regretted Hadnott was not tried under Japanese law. Japanese prosecutors decided to drop the case after the 14-year-old girl who accused Hadnott of raping her withdrew her complaint.
The girl said she did not want any more publicity.
Two men questioned in downtown Naha agreed the sentence seemed too light.
“He was lucky that the girl withdrew the complaint,” said Kenji Kawasumi, 33, a Web designer from Tokyo. “Had he not been a servicemember, there would not have been so much media coverage, and the girl would not have changed her mind.”
Said his friend, Akitoshi Funo, 38, owner of a business equipment sales company in Naha: “A three-year jail term is the same as the punishment for gambling in Japan. Is that all? It is almost like treating the seriousness of the crime as little more than being caught gambling.”
A woman in her mid-40s in Ginowan, however, said she had mixed feelings about whether the sentence was too light.
“It’s hard to say, because at first she was not taken against her will,” said the woman, who identified herself only by her last name of Matsumoto. “My biggest concern is for Okinawa’s society, where many underage children hang around late at night.
“Anyhow, it was the fault of the man, an adult. I cannot say if the sentence is long enough or not. All I want is for him to serve his prison term and pay for the crime.”
Here is the Hadnott incident timeline: