A US military judge has found a Marine guilty of sexual misconduct but not of rape after allegations of gang-raping a woman in Japan, the military said yesterday.
The case in Hiroshima was one of a series of alleged crimes by US troops that has stirred public anger in Japan, a close US ally.
Lance Corporal Larry Dean, 20, one of four servicemen being court-martialed over the alleged incident, was found guilty of “wrongful sexual contact and indecent acts” along with violating military orders.
But the military judge, Major Charles Hale, found him not guilty on charges of rape and conspiracy to rape in the verdict issued on Thursday, a military statement said.
Sentencing proceedings were scheduled to begin yesterday, it said.
It was the first verdict announced for the four servicemen.
A woman, who was 19 at the time of the incident in October, said the soldiers raped her in a car and then stole her money. The court-martial also found Dean not guilty of kidnapping or of receiving stolen property.
The military decided to court-martial the men even though Japanese prosecutors dropped the case, reportedly because the alleged victim had changed her story and was believed to have consented to sex with one man.
The US stations more than 40,000 troops in the country under a security alliance reached after World War II, when Japan renounced the right to wage war.
Japanese leaders have called for tighter controls on US troops after a series of incidents including the murder of a taxi driver by a US deserter and a Marine’s alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl on the southern island of Okinawa.
Japanese prosecutors also declined to press charges in Okinawa after the girl decided not to push ahead with the case, which received intense media attention in Japan.
But the US military also plans to court-martial the Marine in Okinawa, which is home to more than half the US troops in Japan and where tensions run particularly high.