Sailors sentenced for gang-rape in case that sparked curfew
NAHA, Okinawa — Two U.S. sailors were sentenced to prison Friday for gang-raping and robbing an Okinawan woman outside her apartment building.
Seaman Christopher Browning, 24, received 10 years on charges of gang rape and robbery. Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker, 23, was sentenced to nine years for gang rape.
“I felt like a monster” while listening to details of the rape, Dozierwalker testified this week.
Both men pleaded guilty in a Japanese court earlier this week. They were on a short deployment to Okinawa from their duty station at Naval Air Station Fort Worth in Texas when they assaulted the woman Oct. 16 near Kadena Air Base.
The case prompted a Japan-wide curfew for servicemembers and angered Okinawans, many of whom have harbored ill feelings toward the U.S. military since a 1995 incident in which three servicemembers abducted and raped a 12-year-old girl.
The victim was walking home from work early in the morning when the two sailors spoke to her in broken Japanese, according to details released at the trial. She ignored them and they followed her to her apartment door. One sailor covered her mouth; the other grabbed her by the legs. They then took her to the parking lot where they repeatedly choked and raped her.
Afterward, the two men went to a bar and bought alcohol with 7,000 yen (about $87) that Browning took from the woman’s bag.
The entire incident was captured by security cameras, and the footage was examined in detail during the two-day trial this week.
“I know what it’s like because I’ve been through it myself,” said Dozierwalker, who testified he was molested when he was 8.
At one point during his testimony, Dozierwalker turned toward Browning and told the court he takes responsibility for the rape.
“If [Browning’s] sentence is one year, so be it, even if I have to spend my life in prison,” he said. “I am sorry that I led him down the wrong path.”
Browning covered his face with both hands and wept.
During closing arguments, Browning offered his own apologies to the victim, the Japanese public and the U.S. military.
Defense attorneys asked the court for leniency, saying both defendants were remorseful and willing to accept responsibility.
Prosecutors said the two sailors “indulged in their lust and committed a whole gamut of humiliation and cruelty against the victim.” They had sought a 12-year sentence for Browning and 10 years for Dozierwalker.
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.
Following the incident, U.S. commanders in Japan imposed 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.