Navy officer arrested, accused of groping and punching Japanese college student on U.S. flight

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-846 (Sergey Kustov)

For the second time in less than a week, a U.S. serviceman has been arrested for a sexual offense involving a Japanese woman.

Early Friday, a Navy officer assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron Five One (HSM-51), was arrested for allegedly groping and punching a female college student on a U.S. flight from San Diego to Japan.

The alleged assault took place over a 90-minute period while the 19-year old woman was sitting next to the Navy lieutenant– who’s based at the Atsugi Naval Air Facility, near Tokyo.

The plane was en route to Narita International Airport.  According to local media reports, flight attendants helped the student move to a new seat, after she reported that the officer repeatedly touched her on the thigh and punched her in the head several times.

The flight crew reported the incident to police upon arriving in Tokyo. Japanese news agencies reported that the 33-year-old U.S. military service member was arrested at Narita and later released to US custody.

The officer, who has not been identified by Navy officials, is being confined to the Atsugi airbase. “We are investigating for potential violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and if we determine there were violations we will take disciplinary actions that we deem appropriate,” said Navy Commander Ron Flanders.

Less than a week before this incident, a 24-year-old enlisted sailor was arrested  and charged with raping a Japanese woman, at a hotel, on the island of Okinawa.  All of this happening amid efforts to relocate a key U.S. airbase on the island — where 27,000 US troops are stationed. Locals have long been protesting the military’s heavy presence there, claiming that  “crime, noise and congestion” have all gotten worse because of the Futenma airbase.

Massive protests erupted back in the mid-90’s — following the arrest and convictions of three U.S. servicemen for kidnapping and raping a 12-year-old girl on Okinawa. Some critics say Futenma should be moved to a less crowded part of the island. Okinawa’s governor wants the base moved off the island completely.

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  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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