Christopher Browning. (Source: Athens High School)
ATHENS, TX (KLTV) -
The United States Navy is now speaking out about an East Texas sailor who allegedly raped a woman in Okinawa, Japan.
No formal charges are filed at this time, but 23-year-old Christopher Browning of Athens and another sailor are in the custody of Japanese authorities.
U.S. military sources told CNN Thursday that the commander of all U.S. troops in japan is looking at possibly issuing more restrictive rules about what all troops stationed in Japan can and cannot do when they leave base during off-duty hours.
Christopher Jenks, who advised the U.S. Army on international law at the Pentagon, spoke to KLTV about this ongoing investigation. Jenks is the Director of the Criminal Justice Clinic at the SMU Dedman School of Law. He said from past experience, he has a pretty good idea of how this investigation is going to play out.
"The U.S. Military has jurisdiction over its military regardless of where in the world they are. If a U.S. service member was on the moon, the U.S. military would still have jurisdiction. And because the alleged offenses occurred in Okinawa, and the alleged victim is Japanese, Japan also has jurisdiction," Jenks explained.
The U.S. Navy sent us this statement: "We deeply regret the grief and trauma the victim has endured, the anger it has caused among people in Okinawa, and the mistrust this event has caused between the U.S. Navy and our Japanese hosts."
Japan and the United States have a Status of Forces Agreement to establish the rights and privileges of U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan.
"Under Article 17 of our Status of Forces agreement, or SOFA, Japan would have primary jurisdiction over the two service members in a case like this," Jenks said. "If the alleged offense didn't occur on official duty, and it involves a local national, here a Japanese victim, we say the tie goes to Japan. They get the primary right. And then the U.S. Navy's right would be secondary."
Jenks said this incident has put even more strain on the relationship Okinawa has with the United States Military.
"While the U.S. relationship with Japan is very strong, Okinawa is a separate issue. U.S. service member misconduct takes on a whole new dimension in Okinawa. People are already using the allegations as reason to protest," Jenks said.
According to Japanese reports, Seaman Christopher Browning from Athens and Petty Officer Skyler Dozierwalker of Oklahoma had been drinking at a Okinawa bar before the incident took place.
ABC News reports Dozierwalker admitted to sexually assaulting, robbing and slashing the neck of an Okinawa woman, something Browning denies.
"The U.S. Navy will pay for a Japanese attorney to represent them and also provide an interpreter. And the U.S. Navy will also provide a Navy JAG, a Navy military lawyer, to observe any court proceedings that occur," Jenks explained.
However, Jenks says the Japanese legal system will be very different for them.
"There's a premium placed on admitting your responsibility," said Jenks. "While in Japan and Korea, you have the right to silence, frankly if you invoke that right to silence it will be used against you."
The U.S. Department of Defense said they are working closely with the government of Japan in this investigation. Senator John Cornyn serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, his office called these reports "troubling." They said the Senator will be monitoring the Navy's investigation.
Browning's father declined a request for an interview. The Governor of Okinawa said it was, "beyond madness" that this alleged attack took place just two months after a U.S. Marine was arrested on accusations he assaulted and molested another Okinawa woman.
The details on the new measures being placed on U.S. troops in Japan should be announced by early Friday.
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