Prosecutors call for four-year jail term for Japan sexual assault

Prosecutors in Tokyo have called for a four-year sentence for one of the men implicated in crimes last May against two Irishwomen, one of whom, Nicola Furlong, was found strangled in a Tokyo hotel.

American dancer James Blackston, aged 23, is accused of assaulting Ms Furlong’s friend at the Keio Plaza Hotel on May 24, while another American man, Richard Hinds, aged 19, is due to stand trial next month for the murder of Ms Furlong, on the same day, in the hotel where the two men were staying.

While Hinds has admitted to strangling the Dublin City University student, though without intent, Blackston has denied the charge of assaulting her unidentified friend.

Both Co Wexford women were on an exchange programme at a university 100km north of Tokyo.

They had met the two men on May 23 following a concert in the capital, after which the four had gone drinking together.

The prosecution argues that one or both of the men had drugged the Irishwomen, although toxicology reports have yet to be produced.

In their closing remarks yesterday, prosecutors said video footage taken from security cameras inside a taxi and at the Keio Plaza along with drug claims by the victims supported the argument that Blackston had planned the assaults.

Footage inside the taxi showed Blackston molesting Ms Furlong’s friend while the two Irishwomen sat unconscious, prosecutors said. A recorded conversation between the American men in the vehicle indicated intention to sexually assault the Irishwomen, they added.

At the hotel, meanwhile, surveillance cameras showed the two apparently unconscious women being taken in wheelchairs to the men’s hotel rooms.

The defence team lead by Tsutomu Nakamura dismissed the taxi conversation as nothing more than “meaningless” drunken banter. Surveillance footage inside the hotel elevator had shown that the Irishwoman, referred to throughout as “Victim A”, had made a recovery.

In her testimony in December the Irishwoman insisted she and Ms Furlong had no intention of going to the men’s hotel and had made it clear that they intended to stay out celebrating finishing a university exam until catching the first train home in the morning.

Asked by Judge Masayuki Yamada if he had anything to say, Blackston said he felt “sorrow for what happened” to the Irishwoman and the death of Ms Furlong and that his family and fiancée were anxiously awaiting his return. “I just want to go home to my family, that’s all,” he said.

A verdict on the case is scheduled for March 13.

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