A U.S. Navy sailor stationed in Okinawa has been arrested and is being charged with the rape of a Japanese woman, a 40-year-old tourist from the prefecture of Kyushu. Okinawan authorities say the sailor, 24-year-old Justin Castellanos, found the victim drunk and asleep in a hotel lobby.
The U.S. military’s large presence in Okinawa has been controversial for decades. The most infamous incident was the 1995 rape of a 12-year-old girl by three Marines, who were ultimately convicted and served six or seven years in prison each. One of them, Kendrick Ledet, later sexually assaulted and murdered a woman in Georgia before killing himself.
In 2002, a local bartender accused a Marine of trying to rape her and throwing her phone in a river; he was eventually convicted of attempted indecent assault and given a one-year suspended prison sentence. Two Navy sailors were also convicted in 2013 of robbing and raping a Japanese woman in a parking lot.
The allegation against Castellanos is pretty much guaranteed to spark a renewed debate about the presence of the U.S. military in Japan and how criminal accusations against them have been handled. In 1995, the three Marines were held by the U.S. military until they were indicted; outrage ensued, and the United States agreed to consider handing over military service members accused of crimes to local authorities right away.
Anti-U.S. base protesters hold placards in front of the National Diet building during a rally in Tokyo, Sunday, May 24, 2015. Image via AP.