Three-year jail term for sex assault on student’s friend

The man standing trial for sexually assaulting a college friend of Irishwoman Nicola Furlong was sentenced to three years with labour, with the presiding judge Masayuki Yamada saying the assault had been carried out to fulfil a “desire”.

LA dancer James Blackston, 23, was accused of assaulting Ms Furlong’s unidentified friend on the same night last May that Ms Furlong was found strangled in a Tokyo hotel.

He was also charged with assaulting a Japanese-Brazilian woman a month earlier in Kofu, about 100km west of Tokyo.

The two cases shown similarities, with both women reporting having blacked out after drinking tequila with Blackston and then waking up some hours later in his hotel room.

In the Kofu case, photos of the victim’s genital area were found on the accused’s tablet computer. While Blackston claimed he had received the woman’s consent to take the photos, the victim said she had no memory of them being taken.

Even though Blackston had tried to delete some of the photos from that night, some had been found on his computer when police arrested him in May on suspicion of assaulting Ms Furlong’s friend.

That assault had taken place inside a taxi that had driven Blackston and his friend Richard Hinds — who is standing trial for the murder of Ms Furlong — to their hotel along with the two women. A security camera in the vehicle had shown the women were unconscious.

The video footage also showed Blackston on the back seat of the vehicle assaulting Ms Furlong’s friend. Using sexually explicit language, both men appeared to intimate in their conversation that they intended to assault the women.

Hotel CCTV footage showed Blackston pushing a seemingly comatose woman — Ms Furlong’s friend, referred to throughout the trial as Victim A — to his hotel room in a wheelchair.

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