US military vehicles & homes vandalized after drunk marine blamed for fatal Okinawa car crash

Dozens of vehicles and apartment buildings affiliated with the US military in Japan were vandalized in Okinawa, shortly after a local man was killed in car crash blamed by authorities on a drunken American marine.

A total of 29 civilian vehicles owned by US personnel in Japan were covered with paint early on Monday in the towns of Ginowan and Chatan in Okinawa, Stars and Stripes, the official US military newspaper, reported.

The cars had the blue-colored English letter ‘Y’ painted on them by unidentified perpetrators, the paper said. The marking may be explained by the fact that ‘Y’ is usually added to the license plates of vehicles owned by those who are covered by the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which provides a legal framework to the vast US military presence in Japan.

On Sunday, Japanese law enforcement detained Lance Cpl. Nicholas James-McLean over a fatal road accident. The US marine is said to have ignored a red light, crashing his two-ton military truck into a vehicle driven by a 61-year-old local man, who was later pronounced dead in hospital. According to the results of a breath test, James-McLean’s blood alcohol level was three times over the limit allowed in Japan.

US Marine arrested following fatal Okinawa truck crash

A US service member has been arrested following a deadly vehicle crash on the Japanese island of Okinawa early Sunday morning.

Marine Pvt. First Class Nicholas James-McLean was driving a truck when it collided with another vehicle at 5:25 a.m. in Okinawa's capital of Naha, killing the 61-year-old driver, according to Jun Tamanaha from the Naha police department.

Police said James-McLean's blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit.

Okinawa residents have protested the US military presence on the southern Japanese island for years, in large part due to violent and fatal incidents involving members of the US military.

The case will be sent to the Naha prosecutor's office Tuesday morning, which will investigate and decide whether or not to indict James-McLean, Tamanaha said.

"It is extremely regrettable that this accident happened even though Japanese government has repeatedly asked for the thorough implementation of preventive measures and enforcement of disciplines," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference.

Japan is demanding that the US military "enforce the strict discipline and take preventive steps and give a sincere response to the bereaved family."

US military personnel and civilian contractors working for American forces have been accused of multiple crimes in Okinawa this year. From January to October 2017, two have been arrested on allegations of robbery, two on allegations of rape and six on allegations of violent offenses, according to the Okinawa Prefecture Police website. Last year, US sailors in Japan were banned from drinking for an 11-day period after a petty officer was accused of driving on the wrong side of the road, hitting two cars and injuring two people, while under the influence of alcohol. In 2016, two incidents in the space of three months prompted widespread public anger -- in March, a US service member was arrested on suspicion of raping a Japanese tourist, and in May, a civilian contractor at a US base in Okinawa was arrested in connection with the death of a 20-year-old woman.

Officer may lose career after motorbike charge

A US Air Force officer with an “exemplary service record” may be sent back to America and discharged after he was caught driving a motorbike in Alice Springs just weeks after the court disqualified his driver’s licence.

Pacific Command Sergeant Carlos Alberto Novelo was convicted and fined $1700 in Alice Springs Local Court for driving a motor vehicle while disqualified on Friday. He was also disqualified from driving for a further six months.

The court heard Sgt Novelo was driving a red Honda 125cc when police pulled him over for a random breath test on Barret Drive at 11am on Friday May 27.

He did not return a blood alcohol reading.

He was on his way to deliver a seminar on suicide prevention in the defence force at Commander Major Troy Ruby’s house, according to defence lawyer Murray Preston.

“What has occurred has really put his career at risk,” he said.

“He has spoken to his immediate superiors and it has gone all the way to the top.”

“It affects his whole standing with the Air Force.”

“I would ask your honour to take a course that reflects his excellent behaviour and service out here assisting the Australian people and the American Government.”

Sgt Novelo, 33, has been in the US Air Force since he was 19 years old.

“The Air Force does impose whatever penalties they deem appropriate, which could see him sent back to America and possibly discharged,” Mr Preston said.

The maximum penalty for driving while disqualified is 12 months in prison.

US Military Worker Wants His Murder Trial Moved off Okinawa

A U.S. military contractor charged with raping and killing a 20-year-old woman in Japan has asked that his trial be moved outside Okinawa, saying he may not receive a fair trial on the southern island where the case has received extensive media coverage and opposition to U.S. bases is high, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Kenneth Shinzato, a former Marine who is a contractor at Kadena Air Base, was arrested in May when the victim's body was found. He has been charged with rape, murder and abandoning the body of the woman.

His lawyer, Toshimitsu Takaesu, said he submitted a request on Monday for the venue to be shifted to Tokyo because a local jury is likely to be prejudiced, and to allow Shinzato a proper translator and mental examination.

"What's most important is for him to have a fair trial," Takaesu said in a telephone interview from his office in Okinawa. "But after massive media coverage, many people already believe he is a bad guy and guilty. Under the circumstances, the verdict is likely to be guilty regardless of the evidence."

He said Shinzato has denied the murder and rape allegations.

In Japan, jury trials are held only in murder and other serious cases.

Japanese authorities have said Shinzato drove around looking for a target before attacking the victim as she was taking a walk at night.

Shinzato, a U.S. citizen from New York who was born Kenneth Gadson, married a Japanese woman on Okinawa and uses her family name. He was in the Marines before working as a contractor.

The case has sparked outrage and rekindled anti-U.S. military sentiment and protests on Okinawa, where residents resent a heavy American troop presence.

Shinzato's case led Tokyo and Washington to announce a plan Tuesday to reduce the number of civilian U.S. base workers covered by the Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, which protects service members from Japanese prosecution in case of on-duty or on-base accidents or crimes.

Shinzato is considered outside of the SOFA coverage and has been handled under Japanese criminal justice from the beginning.

More than half of nearly 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan under the Japan-U.S. security treaty are on Okinawa. In terms of space, more than 70 percent of Japan-based U.S. military facilities are on the small island. In 1995, three U.S. servicemen on Okinawa abducted and raped a 12-year-old girl in a case that triggered mass protests and led to an agreement to relocate a key air station to another area of the island. The plan has since stalled because residents want the base removed completely from the island.

It keeps happening, rape survivor says, as activists protest abuse by US military in Japan

Protests against American military presence in Japan continued on Saturday, as the country’s defense minister lodged a formal complaint over the latest case of alleged murder and rape of a young Japanese woman by a US military base employee.

Gen Nakatani visited the US Kadena Air Base on Saturday to formally protest the alleged crime to its commander Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson.

"I deliver a strong message of regret and at the same time make a protest,” he said as cited by the public broadcaster NHK.

Japanese officials including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed outrage over the latest in a string of crimes, which has been poisoning US-Japanese military ties for decades. The country’s Foreign Ministry filed a formal complaint over the case as well.

Critics of the deployment of US troops in Japan complain of the crimes committed by American personnel against local residents, environmental damage done by US bases and other negative sides. Okinawa Island hosts roughly half of all American troops in Japan, and sentiment against the arrangement are especially strong there.