Nicola Furlong Case: Does Blackston’s Time Fit the Crime?
The American professional dancer, James Blackston, was sentenced to three-years less 15-months for time served for the sexual assault (Quasi-Forcible Indecency) of Ms. Nicola Furlong’s friend.
The Independent.ie reported:
AN AMERICAN man was sentenced to three years with labour today in Tokyo District Court for assaulting two women in Japan – including a friend of Nicola Furlong. James Blackston assaulted Ms Furlong’s friend on the night the Wexford woman was killed.
Blackston (23) was charged with sexually assaulting a Brazilian woman last April and assaulting Ms Furlong’s friend last May in a Tokyo taxi that also contained carried his friend RIchard Hinds and Ms Furlong.
In the Blackston verdict, Judge Masayuki Yamada said that he assaulted Ms Furlong’s friend to fulfill his “desire.”
Both women, referred to in court as ‘victim A’ and ‘victim B’ said they blacked out after drinking tequila that Mr Blackston gave them.
In the book, The Japanese Way of Justice : Prosecuting Crime in Japan: Prosecuting Crime … by Manoa David T. Johnson Assistant Professor of Sociology University of Hawaii, the following is provided:
Those unfamiliar with the Japanese judicial system may find the following information useful in understanding how the trial was conducted and the verdict reached:
I. THE SAIBAN-IN SYSTEM:
“The saiban-in (lay judge) system started on May 21, 2009. This system is such that those members of the general public who have been selected participate in trials for the most serious of criminal cases. They determine the sentences, including whether the defendant is guilty or not, together with professional judges. With this system it is hoped that more people feel involved in the justice process. The Ministry of Justice has been involved in publicizing and promoting the saiban-in system so that more people will be able to understand its role and functions.” SOURCE
How are verdicts reached?
“Deliberations are conducted at Saiban-in trials by a collegiate body consisting of three judges and six Saiban-ins (or one judge and four Saiban-ins in certain cases), and involve identifying the facts pertaining to a judgment of guilty or not guilty, etc., a decision on which laws and ordinances are applicable, and thus the appropriate sentence. Verdicts are rendered based on the opinions of the majority of the collegiate body, including from both the judges and the Saiban-ins (the opinions of both the judges and the Saiban-ins need to be included, and hence a verdict of guilty cannot be rendered even if all the Saiban-ins agree on a guilty verdict if all the judges have opposing opinions). Saiban-ins can question defendants or witnesses, etc. regarding anything necessary in making a judgment if they inform the presiding judge that they wish to do so. Interpretation of laws and ordinances and judgments on criminal proceedings, etc. can only be made by the judges but the results are provided to the Saiban-ins. Saiban-ins are obliged to follow those decisions. In some cases, however, the opinions of the Saiban-ins can prove useful, and hence the judges may allow Saiban-ins to attend such deliberations and air their opinions.” SOURCE
What type of sentences are given?
“A survey by the Supreme Court on sentences given under the lay judge system has found that rulings for sexual crimes, such as rape and sexual assault, resulting in injury, tended to be harsher.
“Before the lay judge system was introduced, the most common sentences for sexual assault causing injuries called for imprisonment of between three years and five years. Under the lay judge system, however, imprisonment of between five years and seven years was handed down most often for such crimes. This appears to reflect lay judges’ firm stance against heinous sexual crimes.
“On the contrary, the survey showed more suspended sentences were given in murder, arson and robbery resulting in injury cases under the lay judge system. Such rulings were handed down as lay judges expected defendants to rehabilitate themselves and they took the circumstances, such as fatigue from caring for family members, into consideration.” SOURCE
The Independent.ie also reported:
“In January, Mr Blackston described the evidence of Ms Furlong’s friend as untruthful. “I don’t know why she lies, I don’t hate you for it but.. .. why don’t you just say what happened?”
But the judge today described Mr Blackston’s testimony as “irrational.”
He said that Mr Blackston had claimed in court that he had no sexual interest in victim A, but the CCTV camera in the taxi taking them to the Keio Plaza hotel recorded him making explicit references to the two Irish women.
The CCTV camera also records Mr Blackston assaulting Ms Furlong’s friend. During his trial the prosecution said that he had initially denied to police that any contact between him and Victim A took place, but changed his story when the police showed him the footage. He then admitted contact had occurred but said it was consensual.
But the judge today ruled that neither victim A or B provided consent, and were not in a position to provide consent as they were not conscious.”
It appears that Mr. Blackston used the same tactic, giving the women tequila and then sexually assaulting them. In the case of Victim A (Ms. Furlong’s friend), she consumed a copious amount of alcohol (as done by many in Japan during a night of partying) and date rape drugs were not detected in her or Ms. Furlong’s system.
If the judge ruled Mr. Blackston’s testimony irrational, it is possible that Victim A’s testimony DID NOT carry as much weight as the evidence presented in the trial of the American minor. Victim A gave her rationale for the two women passing out. Even after it was determined that Ms. Furlong had a Blood Alcohol Content that was four-times over the limit of being legally drunk in Ireland and it was explained to her that tests showed no sign of her being drugged, she still believed that she was the victim of a date rape drug. Black Tokyo, using the video evidence of Mr. Blackston groping Victim A and his admission of such, while discarding the testimony of the women to determine innocense or guilt on the basic-level, determined that Mr. Blackston would have been found guilty of Quasi-Forcible Indecency.
UNDERSTANDING PUNISHMENTS FOR GROPING / QUASI-FORCIBLE INDECENCY IN JAPAN:
It should be noted that “the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure were both revised in April 27, 2010 (Act No. 26 of 2010) to exclude offenses resulting in death of the victim, which are subject to the death penalty, from the statute of limitation. The period of the statute of limitation for other offenses subject to imprisonment with or without work was extended, and the sentencing prescription accordingly revised.” SOURCE
In looking at Japan’s 2010 White Paper statistics on “Imprisonment with or without work for a definite term” for those found guilty of a similar crime (Rape/Forcible Indecency), Black Tokyo found that 655 of 1,409 persons were sentenced to imprisonment with or without work for a period of two years or more but three years or less. Of that 655, 439 were granted suspension of execution of the sentence as shown in the chart above. SOURCE
In the book, “The Japanese Disease: Sex and Sleaze in Modern Japan By Declan Hayes,” it he writes:
“Suspected train molesters who admit to charges are usually released after filling out paperwork, and are later ordered to pay a fine for violating a local ordinance. But those who deny charges are held, indicted and subject to court proceedings. For now, considering the long period of possible confinement compared with the 50,000 yen fine, it is difficult to advise alleged false molesters to insist on their innocence.”
4-years imprisonment ordered for a former-Hakuhodo employee that used date rape drugs on victim at a Tokyo hotel.
2-years imprisonment and 4-years probation ordered for the former-Hakuhodo employee’s accomplices. SOURCE
DOES THE PUNISHMENT FIT THE CRIME?
Black Tokyo presented a timeline and additional details to provide a fuller account of the evening the Irish Ms. Furlong and her friend met the two American men. We also took a look at the reported evidence of the case evidence used to determine if similar crimes received similar sentences. In looking at one example, and what would constitute an more heinous crime, the following is observed:
To reiterate, Black Tokyo (BT) has stated from the beginning of its coverage of the Nicola Furlong case that any crime committed by Mr. Blackston and the American minor awaiting sentencing in the death of Ms. Nicola Furlong should be punished. Although the saiban-in (lay judges) determined that Mr. Blackston serve three-years less 15-months for time already served, a sentence much lenient than those in cyberspace hoped for, it is opposite of what (BT) expected based on previous cases of QUASI-FORCIBLE INDECENCY.
THE POSSIBLE VERDICT FOR MR. BLACKSTON
So like the USFJ Sailor, Blackston admitted has admitted that he committed quasi-forcible indecency against Ms. Furlong’s friend in the taxi. He also admitted that he did not have sex with Ms. Furlong’s friend while the two were at the hotel.
Based on previous cases, it possible that Blackston will receive a fine and time served or a fine and no more than a 1-year prison sentence.
Was BT off in its analysis? Here is what the judge had to say regarding the sentencing:
The prosecution had requested a 4-year sentence. The judge said that Mr Blackston’s young age, his lack of a criminal record and the fact that he had employment as a professional dancer stood in his favor.
But while neither victim had remembered the assault, the judge said that he had inflicted psychological distress on them.
The American showed no emotion when he was sentenced. He has the right to appeal, though it is not clear if he will exercise this right. His lawyer, Tsutomu Nakamura, declined to comment as he left court.
So, the question remains, does the punishment fit the crime? BT expects that Blackston will appeal!
Rest in Peace, Ms. Furlong. May your family and all families involved in this senseless tragedy find some sense of closure.
The following BT’ers contributed to BT’s reporting of the Nicola Furlong death investigation: @blacktokyo, @onmugen @starrwulfe @ogPegasus303
Have inquiries, an opinion or rant? Feel free to join the discussion via Disqus below.