May. 19, 2013 - 06:30AM JST
Tales of subway groping are unfortunately commonplace in Japan, and anyone committing such a pathetic and cowardly act deserves every punishment given. But what happens if you are falsely accused? Often filled well beyond capacity, there is a real possibility of such a thing happening if you ride the trains running throughout Japan’s major urban centers. No matter your innocence, with a 99% conviction rate should the case go to court, one Tokyo lawyer says the best thing to do if wrongly accused is, run.
Attorney Takashi Nozawa provides the following advice to anyone who might find themselves caught up in this nightmarish, no-win situation.
Though this is a personal opinion, the number one thing I cannot recommend is trying to plead your innocence in open court. You need to provide evidence proving way beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not grope the accuser, and you have to do this in a court where there is a 99% conviction rate for such cases. Additionally, if you are taken into custody after being indicted, it will take quite some for the court to reach a decision, meaning you will be unable to work, and because of the nature of the accusation, shunned by society. As there is often a lot of publicity generated if charges are proved false, many people think they should fight their accuser in court. However, people would do well to remember that when it comes to false accusations of molestation on the train, in the overwhelming majority of cases, there is no justice.
If caught in such a situation, what should one do?
First off would be to run away from the scene, this is one of the most rational responses when considered from a probability perspective. Your first thought is more than likely wanting to prove your innocence, however, in groping cases this is extremely difficult. If you think about the low chances of the police catching you if you quickly escape from the scene, running away is a rather compelling choice.
What should you do if escape is not an option?
To begin with, it would probably be a good idea to immediately and very angrily deny the accusation on the spot.
The greatest risk faced is that of a third party coming forward and also falsely accusing you of the crime. It is an emotional and scandalous issue, and there is the real possibility of someone who did not see anything stepping forward and adding accusations in order to back up and protect the woman accusing you. Testimony from a third party along the lines of “this person fondled her rear,” especially if it is from someone unrelated to the accuser, is decisive evidence. You must maintain an attitude of indignation and angrily claim your innocence, “I didn’t do it! What are you talking about?!” If you do this, there is the possibility that others involved will think it is too much trouble to deal with you, providing an opportunity to flee the scene.
If the police show up, what you must not do is silently obey and follow them to the station. Try anything to avoid going to the station; though you are innocent, it might be in your best interest to try apologizing for a “misunderstanding” that can be taken care of at the train station master’s office. If you go to the police station and continue to deny the charges, they will often keep you in custody for a period of one week to 10 days. During this time you will not be able to go to work and things will not turn out well. You must be prepared to get axed by your company, and the last stages of your fight begin here.
If you are taken into custody on charges of groping, the first thing you need to do is call a lawyer. The lawyer can then call your family to inform them of the situation, and then a family member can call your employer and tell them you have suddenly taken ill and need a few days off. If someone from the company says they would like to visit you at the hospital, the family member can provide evasive answers and say something like the doctor has ordered “quiet rest” with no visitation allowed.
Within about 10 days of your arrest, you need to work with your lawyer in contacting the accuser and trying to work out a settlement. If you wait longer, you will use up your paid holidays, and the chances of your employer discovering the truth about your situation increase. If you continue to deny the charges, the police can continue holding you for up to 23 days by saying they are worried you may attempt to flee their jurisdiction or damage evidence.
It is understandable that those accused may not feel fully satisfied with having to make an out-of-court settlement despite the fact that they are innocent, but as a lawyer, what I am trying to get them to agree to is only that they “touched” the accuser, not that they “intentionally touched” her. In other words it was not a case of deliberate indecency; we are just trying to bring the incident to an end by paying “damages based on negligence.” The documentation exchanged with the accuser simply states “damages” of a certain amount will be paid if the accuser agrees to drop the case through her own “generosity.”
In the period immediately following the incident, the female accuser is usually angry. However, in the end, most cases are concluded when an agreement on monetary compensation is reached. Once an out-of-court settlement is reached with the accuser, I will meet with the prosecutor in charge of the case and get them to agree that, “though somewhat unclear with regard to actual details regarding the incident, an out-of-court settlement has been reached. Rather than wasting the court’s time by futilely trying this case of supposed willful criminal indecency, it would be easier to dispose of it by simply dismissing the case.”
At any rate, if you are taken into custody on this charge, you should resign yourself to the fact that you will almost certainly be found guilty close to 100% of the time, and you should aim for some type of “gray zone” resolution. I know of many cases where people falsely arrested on groping charges were able to hide the fact from their employers, allowing them to get on and continue leading normal lives.
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