Sailors plead guilty in rape case that sparked Japan curfew
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Two U.S. sailors pleaded guilty Tuesday to raping and robbing an Okinawan woman in October, a case that sparked the military to impose a Japan-wide curfew for all American servicemembers.
Seaman Christopher Browning, 24, and Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker, 23, were accused of choking and raping the woman in a parking lot for nearly an hour. Browning is also charged with stealing 7,000 yen (about $87) from her bag.
They pleaded guilty at the start of their trial in a Japanese court.
The case inflamed deep Okinawan sensitivities toward military sex crimes and led to an 11 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew that recently was relaxed by an hour. Further alcohol-fueled off-base misbehavior sparked restrictions on drinking.
The alleged victim in the case told police she was walking home from work early on the morning of Oct. 16 near Kadena Air Base.
Dozierwalker asked Browning if he wanted to rape the woman and Browning said he did, according to details presented at the trial Tuesday.
The sailors spoke to the woman in broken Japanese, but she ignored them, prosecutors said. They followed her to her apartment door and grabbed her from behind. One sailor covered her mouth; the other grabbed her by the legs. They then took her to the parking lot where they raped her.
Afterward, Dozierwalker and Browning went to a bar and bought alcohol with the money stolen from the woman’s bag, according to prosecutors.
Police apprehended them at a nearby hotel later that morning. The two sailors had been scheduled to return to the United States the same day.
Off-base incidents involving servicemembers have recently complicated relations with the Okinawans that already were strained. Crime, particularly rape, remains a top reason why many have demanded reductions in the large U.S. military presence on the island, where most American troops in Japan are based.
In 1995, three servicemembers abducted and raped a 12-year-old Okinawan girl. The case prompted the U.S. and Japan to strike an agreement to draw down forces on the island by moving 9,000 Marines elsewhere, though the plans have yet to be realized.