U.S. Marine Says He Feared Sailor Accused of Masterminding Rape
Dec. 26, 1995
NAHA, Okinawa (AP) _ A U.S. Marine charged with abducting and raping a 12-year-old schoolgirl accused a Navy sailor today of bullying him into taking part in the attack.
A second Marine, meanwhile, offered an emotional apology and a plea for forgiveness from the witness stand of a Japanese court.
The three American servicemen _ Navy Seaman Marcus Gill, 22, of Woodville, Texas; Marine Pfc. Rodrico Harp, 21, of Griffin, Ga., and Marine Pfc. Kendrick Ledet, 20, of Waycross, Ga. _ are on trial in the Sept. 4 rape of the girl, who was snatched off the street as she shopped for school supplies.
Gill has admitted to the actual rape; Harp and Ledet say they helped in the abduction.
The crime outraged Okinawans and set off the biggest protests ever here against the U.S. military presence. About half of the 46,000 American troops in Japan are stationed on the tiny southern island.
At today's session, Harp told the court he was afraid that the larger Gill would hurt him if he did not go along with the attack. He said he initially defied the sailor's orders, but then went along out of fear.
``Gill said to tape the girl's hands up, and I said no, and he said `Tape the girl's hands up!''' he testified, his voice rising sharply.
Harp acknowledged striking the girl as she struggled to escape her abductors.
``I did hit her,'' he said in a low voice. ``It was mean of me to hit her.''
He also acknowledged getting into the back seat of the car in his underwear after Gill had raped the girl, but said he did not want to rape her himself.
``Not when I saw the way the girl was lying there,'' he said.
Ledet, testifying afterward, said he was sorry for his part in the attack.
``I wish I were never there,'' he said in a trembling voice. ``I'm very sorry and would like to apologize to the little girl, her family and the people of Japan.''
``I can understand how the victim and her family feel ... but the Bible also tells about forgiveness,'' he added.
Chief Judge Shinei Nagamine displayed some impatience with long explanatory replies by Harp and Ledet. At one point, he cut off Ledet's comments, telling him: ``Please stop now.''
The mothers of both Harp and Ledet were present in court today. As Harp testified, his mother, Daisey Harp, held her head in her hands.
All three men are charged with rape causing injury, which carries a penalty of three years to life in prison. The three-judge panel is expected to issue the verdict and sentence in late January.
Court sessions in Japanese trials are commonly separated by weeks or even months; the previous session was held Dec. 14.
The trial has been an emotional one. The first session included the reading of an angry statement by the father of the victim saying he wished he could kill her attackers.
But with a final verdict still weeks away, some of the furor surrounding the proceedings has died down. All spectators who asked for seats at today's session got one, in contrast to the overflow crowds at earlier sessions.
The wives of Gill and Harp have taken the stand to apologize and appeal for leniency. This is an important strategy in Japan, where courts have no juries, and more than 99 percent of defendants are convicted.
On Wednesday, prosecutors plan to cross-examine Gill. The bilingual trial has moved slowly because each statement must be translated.