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Gang-rape ringleader gets 14 years

By YUMI WIJERS-HASEGAWA
Staff writer

The Tokyo District Court sentenced the former leader of a Waseda University club to 14 years in prison Tuesday for masterminding the gang-rapes of three female students in 2001 and 2003.

The sentence for ex-Waseda student Shinichiro Wada, 30, was just shy of the 15-year maximum penalty for rape. Forty percent of convicted rapists are sentenced to terms of less than three years.

Presiding Judge Yujiro Nakatani said, "The behavior of the accused, of completely ignoring the humanity of the victims and using them as mere tools for sex, is extremely heinous."

Using strong alcoholic drinks to intoxicate victims to the point of unconsciousness is "a villainous act that does not take the safety of their lives into account," the judge added.

Nakatani said Wada avoided the maximum sentence because he had received "considerable social sanction" and because his father has indicated he plans to compensate the victims.

Wada and two other members of Super Free, the club he headed, raped a 19-year-old college student in Dec. 19, 2001, at the club's office, which was also Wada's residence, in Tokyo's Toshima Ward.

In April 27, 2003, Wada and 12 other Super Free members gang-raped an 18-year-old coed on the landing of a Roppongi building in Minato Ward. She was then taken to the Super Free office to be further raped.

In May 18, 2003, he and four other members raped a 20--year-old college student at the same Roppongi location.

Judge Nakatani said Wada, who entered Waseda University in 1994 and became head of Super Free in 1995, started encouraging other members from around 1999 to carry out gang rapes with him, saying such acts "create solidarity among members," and "those who did not participate in gang rapes were not members of the club."

The judge said the club lured female students to its parties by distributing leaflets that said they could meet men from prestigious universities.

The three gang rapes Wada was convicted of are considered just the tip of the iceberg of similar assaults he and other members allegedly committed.

Police said that more than a dozen women approached investigators about being raped after the three cases came to light. But these women chose not to file criminal complaints.

A rape prosecution requires a formal complaint lodged by the victim due to its sensitivity. Police said Super Free members often took photos of the victims during the rapes and blackmailed them into keeping quiet by threatening to shame them.

Thirteen members of Super Free, apart from Wada, were earlier handed prison terms ranging from 28 months to 10 years. Three of them have appealed their sentences.

Ten were also from other prestigious colleges, including the University of Tokyo, Keio University and Gakushuin University. The club was dissolved in June 2003.

Super Free's high-profile gang rapes prompted the Justice Ministry to toughen the penalty for rape.

There has long been criticism that the penalty for rape, starting at two years, is much lower than that of robbery, which starts at five years.

A new bill seeks to raise the minimum penalty for rape to three years and to establish a new penalty for gang rapes, which starts at four years.

The Japan Times: Nov. 3, 2004