December 26, 1995
Web posted at: 9:00 a.m. EST (1400 GMT)
From Tokyo Bureau Chief John Lewis
NAHA, Okinawa (CNN) -- Two of the three U.S. servicemen on trial for the rape of a Japanese girl on Okinawa told the court Tuesday they acted out of fear.
Marine Corps Privates First Class Rodrico Harp, 21, and Kendrick Ledet, 20, told the judges in Naha District Court they both took part in the abduction, but not the rape, because they were ordered to do so by the other defendant, 22-year-old U.S. Navy Seaman Marcus Gill.
In the morning session, Harp told the court that he bound the young girl because Gill pressured him to do so. Harp said: "I am afraid of him," adding: "I wasn't going to rape her because she was only a little girl. I was hurt to see the way she was abused." The 12-year-old girl was snatched off the street while shopping for school supplies on September 4.
In his testimony, Ledet said much the same.
"Gill is so much bigger than me, so much stronger than me."
-- Marine Pfc. Kendrick Ledet
Gill sat through most of Tuesday's proceedings quietly shaking his head. Testifying later, he voiced remorse and admitted the rape, but said the idea originated with Ledet. Gill said the other two men had painted an unfair picture of him, and that in testimony scheduled for Wednesday, he would give a detailed account of their involvement.
"The other two left out the parts that made them look bad," he said.
The rape outraged Okinawans and set off huge protests against the U.S. military presence. About half of the 46,000 American troops in Japan are stationed on the tiny southern island.
Both Ledet and Harp have expressed sorrow over the incident and their part in it. The mothers of Harp and Ledet were in court Tuesday. Ledet's mother echoed her son's apology. "I'm very sorry. I feel sorry for this young girl. I sympathize with her," said Barbara Cannon. "I sympathize for her family." (162K AIFF sound or 162K WAV sound)
Outside the courtroom, Harp's mother said the families of the three servicemen have each come up with compensation payments for the victim.
"I don't mind paying the $5,000," Mrs. Harp said. "He was involved, but he was forced to sign a piece of paper saying he did it. I don't believe he'd rape a little girl like that."
Harp has repeatedly claimed that U.S. military officials coerced him into signing a confession to rape.
Apologies and compensation before the verdict are an important defense strategy in Japan. Courts have no juries and more than 99 percent of defendants are convicted.
Meanwhile, an American lawyer advising the families of both Harp and Ledet may seek a change of venue during Wednesday's session. "We believe that this case should be moved under the Japanese civil/criminal procedure to another part of Japan," said Michael Griffith.
But legal experts here say there is little likelihood that a motion to move the trial from Okinawa would be successful.
All three men are charged with rape causing injury, which carries a penalty of three years to life in prison. Court sources say the proceedings should be wrapped up by Thursday, with a verdict handed down by mid-January.
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