US Airman in Japan Arrested, Accused of Groping Woman

By: AP
By: AP

TOKYO (AP) -- A U.S. serviceman was accused of sexually assaulting a Japanese woman on Friday, the latest in a series of criminal accusations sparking anger against the American military presence in Japan.

James Littlejohn, a 22-year-old Airman 1st Class at the Misawa Air Base in northern Japan, was arrested on charges of groping a 19-year-old woman Friday while she was walking home, said a spokesman from Hachinohe police near Misawa. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing policy.

Littlejohn allegedly hugged the woman from behind, then forcibly touched her breasts and buttocks, the police spokesman said.

He then fled in his car, but was taken into custody after police stopped the vehicle based on a description from the woman.

The case is a fresh embarrassment to the American military in Japan, where about 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed. It follows higher-profile arrests earlier this year.

A U.S. Marine charged with raping a 14-year-old girl in southern Okinawa in February is to be court-martialed. That accusation prompted the U.S. military to severely restrict troop movements and conduct a review of its anti-sexual assault education programs and guidelines.

The rape and other criminal accusations against U.S. troops have inflamed long-simmering anger at the American military presence, which is blamed for crime, pollution and other problems.

Deputy Cmdr. Joel Malone of the Misawa Air Base visited the cities of Hachinohe and Misawa to smooth relations with officials there following Littlejohn's arrest.

"We take every incident such as this very seriously and we will cooperate with the investigation," he told Hachinohe Mayor Makoto Kobayashi in a partially televised visit. Kobayashi demanded the Air Force step up troop discipline.

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