CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa -- An Okinawa-based Marine who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a local woman was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday by a Japanese court.
Cpl. Iian Christopher Tarver, 21, who was stationed at Camp Foster, admitted to the court that he attacked the woman on a Naha street in the predawn hours of Aug. 18. He apologized to her and the Marine Corps during his criminal trial this week in the Okinawa capital.
The sexual assault sparked a protest outside the Marine headquarters on Okinawa when it was reported in August and was the first in a series of criminal incidents committed by U.S. servicemembers in recent months that have stoked anti-military sentiment in Japan and triggered a raft of liberty restrictions aimed at curbing boozy, off-base misbehavior.
Prosecutors requested the four-year sentence for Tarver, calling the assault a vicious crime.
“The defendant committed the crime only to satisfy his lust, thus there is no grounds for extenuating circumstances,” they told the court.
The panel of judges said Thursday that Tarver had been out drinking with other Marines and tried to contact his Japanese girlfriend for sex. When he could not reach her, he grabbed the victim by the hair as she walked along the street around 4:30 a.m.
Tarver dragged her to two different locations and forced her to perform oral sex, according to the court.
In the panel’s decision, it said the sentence was appropriate because the victim suffered extreme mental and physical harm and had feared for her life.
“For a foreigner like you, it might be difficult to serve in a Japanese prison, but we expect you to reflect on what you have done,” Chief Judge Hideyuki Suzuki said.
Tarver defense attorney Yuji Fujita had sought leniency because the crime was not premeditated.
In his apology, Tarver said: “I set a bad example for the people and for my family. I destroyed my life and I destroyed the victim’s life.”
The case raised tensions on Okinawa that were further enflamed by the alleged gang-rape by two sailors in October, a spate of minor crimes by troops and the U.S.-Japan decision to deploy Osprey aircraft to the island despite widespread public protests.
All servicemembers on Okinawa remain under a nighttime curfew as part of the military’s attempt to patch relations with the Japanese. Marines are restricted from drinking alcohol off-base and face breathalyzer tests when leaving base by vehicle or on foot.