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Japan's top court awards damages to journalist Shiori Ito in rape case

The Supreme Court is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO -- Japan's Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by a former TV reporter against a Tokyo High Court decision awarding damages to journalist Shiori Ito in a high-profile rape case, finalizing the lower court's ruling that the defendant sexually assaulted Ito.

    The top court's First Petty Bench on July 7 upheld the January 2022 high court ruling ordering Noriyuki Yamaguchi, a 56-year-old former reporter for Tokyo Broadcasting System Television Inc., to pay some 3.32 million yen (about $24,000) in compensation to Ito. The 33-year-old plaintiff had sought about 11 million yen (approx. $81,000) in damages.

    The petty bench also rejected Ito's appeal against a countersuit filed by Yamaguchi claiming that she defamed him by reporting "false sexual damage" in her book and other mediums. The July 7 ruling finalized the lower court's ruling that partially recognized defamation by Ito and ordered her to pay 550,000 yen (about $4,000) to Yamaguchi in damages -- a fraction of the 130 million yen (roughly $960,000) Yamaguchi had been seeking. It was a unanimous decision by the five-member bench.

    According to the two earlier court rulings, Ito became severely inebriated after dining out with Yamaguchi in April 2015. As she was unable to get out of a taxi on her own, the two stayed at a hotel, where Yamaguchi had sexual intercourse with Ito while she was unconscious. Ito subsequently went to a hospital and consulted with police and friends.

    In the high court ruling, the court recognized the credibility of Ito's account that she had not consented to sex with Yamaguchi, judging that their relationship was not close enough for them to engage in such acts. The court ordered Yamaguchi to pay the 3.32 million yen to Ito -- roughly the same amount awarded by the Tokyo District Court in December 2019.

    Meanwhile, regarding Ito's claim in her book and elsewhere that Yamaguchi slipped her a date rape drug, the high court ruled that there was inadequate evidence corroborating the account and recognized that Yamaguchi's privacy had been violated. The district court had earlier ruled entirely against Yamaguchi, including his countersuit.

    While Yamaguchi was referred on paper to prosecutors on suspicion of sexual assault against someone who is intoxicated, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office dropped the case against him in July 2016 claiming insufficient evidence. A committee for the inquest of prosecution also ruled in September 2017 that the case didn't merit indictment, ending the criminal investigation.

    (Japanese original by Kazuhiro Toyama, Tokyo City News Department)

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