The lower court handed down the ruling of guilty to Hideaki Ishii, in his 50s, for groping a 19-year-old woman in 2005 during his commute on the JR Yokohama line. After a second trial in 2007 that upheld the initial court decision, the Supreme Court rejected Ishii’s final appeal last year in December. After three and a half years’ legal battle to prove his innocence, the former sales executive of a leading corporation will be incarcerated later this month for a term of 1 year and 6 months.
Ishii’s nightmare began in the train on Jan 21 in 2005, when a young woman shouted that he was a groper. He was immediately apprehended on suspicion of violating the nuisance prevention ordinance. Two months later, he was indicted for indecent assault, and the lower court later found him guilty.
According to Ishii, “Many people advised me after my arrest that I should admit to the charge and apologize. Then I’d be required to pay 50,000 yen as penalty and the case will be over. But I refused because it was something I didn’t do. I spent more than 10 million yen in legal fees to prove my innocence and I now face a prison sentence, even though I have no criminal record. The verdict stated that the sentence was appropriate in view of what they claimed was the absence of any sign of remorse. How am I to feel remorse over an act I didn’t commit?”
In the interrogation room, Ishii says that he was tempted to give in. “Police investigators have no qualms about lying just to get a confession. They rejected my request to have a lawyer as ‘impossible,’ blatantly threatened that I would be detained for 20 days if I continued denying the charge and said they would handcuff me. I had already been arrested, so none of it makes sense. But I believed them at the time.”
What prevented Ishii from succumbing to the emotional pressure was his daughter. “I wouldn’t make her into a criminal’s child, not when I am innocent.”
Shortly after the first trial, the prosecution changed the charge from violation of the nuisance prevention ordinance to public assault. Ishii’s lawyer suspected it was due to "loss of face," since the court ordered his release from detention much earlier than prosecutors had hoped for.
Ishii was certain that his innocence would be proven at court. Around the time the crime allegedly happened, he was standing behind the female victim, but preoccupied with a text message he was sending to a friend. The cell phone records prove this fact, yet the victim insisted she was being groped during that time. A male witness also stated he saw Ishii from the time he was supposedly waiting at the platform for the train, and claimed that the act did happen. However, the said platform is not a station Ishii uses, either to get on or transfer for his commute. If the testimony were true, Ishii would have had to get off the train once. Based on the hour he left home for work, it was impossible for Ishii to be on that platform at the hour as testified.
Yet the court determined that the testimony was credible. Even though Ishii has no prior conviction, what he got was an unsuspended prison sentence. The imprisonment was postponed to wait for Ishii’s recovery from surgery for intestinal cancer, diagnosed after the Supreme Court ruling.
“All I can do is hope for a retrial," Ishii said. He continues to plea for anyone who may have seen him at the time of the alleged crime to come forward and prove his innocence.© Japan Today