Pacific edition, Friday, March 29, 2002
NAHA — Timothy Woodland was found guilty Thursday of raping a 24-year-old Okinawa woman in the parking lot of a popular Chatan nightspot in June.
A three-judge panel in Naha District Court sentenced the 25-year-old U.S. Air Force technical sergeant to two years and eight months of hard labor in a Japanese prison. He was given 100 days credit for pretrial confinement since July.
Woodland was led into the courtroom with a rope tied to his waist and his hands shackled. He wore the same double-breasted gray suit he's worn during each court appearance during the last seven months.
After his handcuffs were removed, Woodland stood in front of the podium, where the chief judge read the court's findings and announced the sentence. Woodland showed no emotion as he listened to the English translation. There was no reaction in the courtroom.
Shortly after hearing the sentence, Woodland asked to sit because he was feeling ill. The chief judge said yes, and the judges continued reading the ruling.
Woodland, who has spent almost nine months in the Naha Detention Center during the trial, claimed that he had consensual sex with the woman, a nurse. He said they were both drunk when he met her after the 3F club in the American Village shopping plaza closed for the night.
He testified that her body language suggested she consented to have sex with him.
The woman claims he took advantage of her drunken state to force himself upon her on the hood of a car in the far corner of the lot.
Woodland, assigned to the 353rd Operations Support Squadron on Kadena Air Base, had testified it was common for him to have sex with Japanese women in the parking lots of Okinawa nightspots. During the trial, his defense attorneys tried to paint a picture of an Okinawan subculture where Japanese women sought one-night stands with U.S. servicemen.
According to Woodland's testimony, the woman agreed to go with him for drinks and gave him a hug as they walked toward his friend's car.
"At this time the defendant believed that she was agreeing to have sex," said Tsuyoshi Arakaki, the lead defense attorney. He said when she got into the car, it was another sign she was promiscuous and willing.
The woman testified early in the trial, which began Sept. 11, that she was "extremely intoxicated" and believed Woodland was a girlfriend's friend who had offered her a ride home earlier that night. When Woodland allegedly tried to force her to perform a sex act in the car, she left, complaining that she had to vomit.
She said she tried to run, but was attacked from behind when she stopped by a car to catch her breath.
Woodland said he approached her to ask if she was OK and then had sex with her when she responded to his touch.
Woodland was also accused of sodomizing the woman.
Witnesses disagreed about what transpired in the parking lot. Marine Lance Cpl. Jermaine Oliphant, a friend of the victim's girlfriend, testified that he saw Woodland forcing himself on the woman, who was struggling and shouting "No."
Two of Woodland's Air Force friends said they saw something else. One testified the woman was moaning with pleasure, not screaming. The second said her pleas of "no" were targeted at Oliphant.
"I thought [Woodland] was having an argument with her date," said Tech. Sgt. Marvin Carter. "I thought she was telling Woodland and the other guy not to fight."
In Japan, rape brings a maximum sentence of life in prison, but most sentences run between three to five years.
In the 1995 rape and abduction on Okinawa of a 12-year-old schoolgirl, two Marines and a Navy medic pleaded guilty, and their sentences ranged from six and one-half to seven years in a Japanese prison at hard labor.
That case brought a flurry of calls for a change in the status of forces agreement, which resulted in an agreement for the "speedy" turnover of Americans charged with "heinous" crimes, such as murder and rape.
Woodland was the second American handed over under the provision, but Okinawans complained the four-day delay in his transfer was too long.