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February 20, 2004

Lack of hearing aid acquits deaf man of sex attack

From: Mainichi Shimbun - Tokyo,Japan - Feb 20, 2004

FUKUOKA -- A deaf man has been cleared of sexual assault on a minor at a Fukuoka court because investigators did not provide him with a hearing aid during interrogations, it was learned Friday.

Prosecutors claimed that the 36-year-old man admitted to the allegation during the probe but the Fukuoka District Court rejected it.

"The defendant has serious hearing difficulties. Even when he was wearing a hearing aid, he had trouble understanding questions during the trial," Presiding Judge Tsukasa Yamashiro said in acquitting the man. "The inexplicable decision by investigative authorities to question him without a hearing aid is puzzling."

Prosecutors argued that the man, whose name is being withheld, hugged a second-grade junior high school girl at a parking lot in Fukuoka on the night of Jan. 16 last year. He put his hand over her mouth and shouted, "Stop making noise!" The man allegedly tried to sexually assault the girl but failed after she struggled.

During the trial, the man denied the allegations of sexual assault.

"I put my hand over her mouth because she started screaming when I tried to ask her for directions," the man said. "I couldn't hear what investigators were saying and wasn't given a chance to ask them what they said."

Judge Yamashiro criticized prosecutors and police. "I have to question the efforts interrogators put in to try and understand the defendant's statement."

Spokesmen for the Fukuoka District Prosecutors Office and the city's Nishi Police Station have refused to release a comment. Prosecutors have appealed the ruling. (Wire reports, Japan, Feb. 20, 2004)

© 2003 The Mainichi Newspapers Co.