Mother of falsely accused groper who killed himself files damages suit

TOKYO —

Shortly before midnight on Dec 10, 2009, a 25-year-old university worker named Shinsuke Harada was making his way through Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station on his way home. Suddenly a young woman cried out, “He touched me!”

The woman’s male companion grabbed Harada, apparently roughed him up a bit, and hauled him over to a station employee. Station officials brought in the police. After some seven hours of questioning, Harada was released. Dazed and humiliated, Harada took a subway to Waseda Station and jumped in front of a moving train.

On Jan 29, 2010, Tokyo Metro police processed the case as “chikan” – groping – and passed the documentation on to prosecutors, who quietly laid the matter to rest in view of Harada’s death.

On April 26 of this year, Harada’s mother filed a civil damages suit against the city of Tokyo, on the grounds that police got prosecutors involved even though they knew that Harada was innocent, causing his family to suffer social disgrace.

Writing in Shukan Post (May 20), journalist Tetsuya Shibui notes that innocence is very hard to prove in a “chikan” case if the supposed victim stands firm, the more so if there are eyewitnesses. But that, he adds, does not apply here. Police records obtained by Harada’s mother seem to indicate that the woman retracted her accusation and stated clearly that Harada was not the perpetrator. If that is so, two questions arise: (1) Why was Harada not clearly assured as he left the station after questioning that he was no longer under suspicion? (2) Why did police send the file to prosecutors?

In the early stages of the altercation at Shinjuku Station, Harada managed to call 110, the police help line. A record of the call was found on his cell phone. Police are required to preserve the data pertinent to all such calls for one year, Shibui says, and Harada’s mother, following authorized procedure, was able to secure an edited copy. It shows her son calling at 11:27 p.m. to report being surrounded by station personnel. In the course of the investigation that followed, the police transcript seems to establish, the supposed victim told police at 4:30 a.m. that Harada’s clothing was different from that of the man who allegedly molested her.

At that point, Shibui says, Harada should have been absolved of all suspicion. Was he? If so, had he been clearly informed of the fact before he finally left the station at 5:30 a.m.? Again – if he had been absolved, why did the case move up to the prosecutors?

“It would have been a simple matter,” lawyer Tsutomu Shimizu tells Shibui, “for police to detain Harada longer if they considered him a suspect. If they let him go, the implication is that they no longer did view him as a suspect. Police absolutely want to be on a superior footing to the people they investigate. If they had apologized and Harada had got angry, it would have been unpleasant. That’s the only reason I can think of for not making it clear to him that he was no longer a suspect.”

If police had taken that patently appropriate measure, Harada might be alive today.

  • 0

    tkoind2

    Cops here care about one thing only, their crime solving rate. Which at some insanely high percentage reeks of corruption and injustice.

    They failed here and I hope they get soundly burned for it!

  • 0

    LostinNagoya

    What a tragedy! It was because of news like this that I waited for the next train instead of getting on a crowded car.

  • 0

    PenelopePitstop

    If police had taken that patently appropriate measure, Harada might be alive today.

    I would argue that if Harada hadn't killed himself, Harada might be alive today.

  • 0

    seesaw2

    I hope the woman and her companion reads this news too.

  • 0

    Fadamor

    I hope the woman and her companion reads this news too.

    Why would you hope that? So she might be consumed with guilt? The way I read the article, she recanted her accusation that day, before he was even released. Her companion was acting simply on her word, not as a witness. It's the police who left the man in limbo about his status. It's the police who failed this citizen and should be feeling guilty.

  • 0

    porter

    Crowded trains are dangerous for men who are travelling solo.

  • 0

    DenTok2009

    I hope Harada's mother receives a very large sum of money.

    Maybe it's time to dissolve the national police force and privatize them (ala the post office). Make the police responsible for their actions (or lack thereof).

    Anyone know if there's been any follow up to the lawyer who got stabbed when the police were holding his so the killer could stab him? I know the internal review came to the conclusion those cops did nothing wrong but the lawyer's wife and everyone else were crying foul.

  • 0

    luckygohappy

    Why would you hope that? So she might be consumed with guilt?

    Why not? She and everyone should be more careful when making such accusations. How could she accuse him one minute, and later think the actual groper was wearing different clothes? Sounds pretty far fetched to me. In fact, it sounds like she come up with an excuse to back out of a scam of getting money for a false accusation of groping.

    It might be that she and her companion actually belong in a jail cell. The least she could do is be consumed with guilt. And I would say it would be just about right if it was that stupid of a mistake.

  • 0

    recherche88

    Glad I don't have to ride the trains. No way to prove yourself innocent if accused. My sympathies for all the women who are groped, but don't want to be in the vicinity when it happens. Lots of hands on the trains, hard to prove yours wasn't the one.

  • 0

    gaijinfo

    The Law in this regard is completely backward. Any woman, along with a "witness" can falsely accuse any man and pretty much ruin their lives, with absolutely zero fear of reprisal.

    It might be that she and her companion actually belong in a jail cell. The least she could do is be consumed with guilt.

    This woman (and her companion) should be behind bars as well as be named in the lawsuit by the mother.

  • 0

    bdiego

    Hit the nail on the head: If they had apologized and Harada had got angry, it would have been unpleasant. That’s the only reason I can think of for not making it clear to him that he was no longer a suspect.”

    The details here prove the police and the victim both agreed they had the wrong guy. The fact that her friends assaulted this guy and weren't prosecuted is a double slap on the face.

  • 0

    bdiego

    Fadamor, you don't know the other details of this case, which this article has completely omitted. Her friends attacked and beat this guy like an animal before the police showed up. The police treated him like a criminal, even after they were told by the victim herself that it was the wrong guy. he left thinking he was going to be prosecuted (and he was, they sent the file to the prosecutors), of which there is roughly a 97%+ rate of conviction irregardless of guilt. Welcome to Japan.

    Please don't base everything on a cursory follow-up article.

  • 0

    dirisaya

    I feel sorry for the mother of the accused.

  • 0

    realist

    For a country with so many sex crimes, committed by both men and women, I am appalled by this case. There are far to many cases like this, where men in particular are falsely accused by witless young Japanese women. Some do it deliberately, in order to blackmail Japanese men for money. Others do it out of spite. I hope this young woman feels proud of herself today. I admire the young man`s mother, and hope she gets lots of compensation, though no amount of that can bring back her son.

  • 0

    realist

    As for the J police - words fail me, though I am not surprised by what they did. I wonder would they treat some of their Yakuza friends like that.

  • 0

    goddog

    This guy must have had other issues that forced himself in front of a train. Maybe he was feeling guilty for groping other women, but not this one in particular.

  • 0

    Monkeyz

    For a country with so many sex crimes, committed by both men and women,

    Statements like this create the false image that men and women commit sex crimes in equal numbers. Hardly the case.

    There are far to many cases like this, where men in particular are falsely accused by witless young Japanese women.

    Really? Are there so many? I hear of far more actual groping cases than false accusations. (In fact, I think this is one of the only false accusations I've heard of.) And in other cases if a woman falsely accuses a guy, that doesn't mean she wasn't groped--it just means she may have gotten the wrong guy.

    Some do it deliberately, in order to blackmail Japanese men for money. Others do it out of spite.

    Or ... because someone DID grope them and they aren't positive who it was.

    Listen to some guys talk and you'd think women were making up sexual assaults all over the place. When, if anything, tons of guys are getting away with it without ever being fingered. Far, far more guilty go free than free become assumed to be guilty.

  • 0

    ADK99

    Monkeyz, to be fair none of us have the faintest idea how many false accusations are made. Could be zero, could be thousands.

  • 0

    alladin

    This women and her companion should be both thrown into prison for a very long time for their action and be made to pay this innocent guys family a lot of money for their lost.

  • 0

    Ciara Akachan Peterson

    For some people shame and embarrassment is a big deal and in Harada's case it lead to him killing himself. The police should have just told him that he was cleared of groping the woman. unecessary death

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