Tuesday 21 November 2017

Blackston shows no remorse as he's jailed for sexually assaulting Nicola’s friend

James Blackston
James Blackston
Nicola Furlong’s father Andrew, showing his tattoos of Nicola, alongside her sister Andrea and mother Angela outside court in Tokyo
Nicola Furlong's sister Andrea stands with her father Andrew and mother Angela outside the Tokyo District Court at the end of the sixth day of proceedings

Paul Murphy in Tokyo

AN AMERICAN man was sentenced to three years with labour today in Tokyo District Court for assaulting two women in Japan - including a friend of Nicola Furlong.

James Blackston assaulted Ms Furlong’s friend on the night the Wexford woman was killed.

Blackston (23) was charged with sexually assaulting a Brazilian woman last April and assaulting Ms Furlong's friend last May in a Tokyo taxi that also contained carried his friend RIchard Hinds and Ms Furlong.

The trial of Mr Hinds, 19, for the murder of Nicola Furlong in Tokyo's Keio Plaza hotel on May 24th ended earlier today and a verdict is due next Tuesday.

In the Blackston verdict, Judge Masayuki Yamada said that he assaulted Ms Furlong's friend to fulfill his "desire."

Both women, referred to in court as 'victim A' and 'victim B' said they blacked out after drinking tequila that Mr Blackston gave them.

A professional dancer who was touring Japan with R&B singer Ai, Mr Blackston met with victim B at an after-concert party in the city of Kofu, about 100km west of Tokyo. The following month he and Mr Hinds met with Victim A and Ms Furlong outside a Tokyo train station and all four went to a bar together.

Victims A and B both say that after drinking Mr Blackston’s tequila they woke up hours later in his hotel room with no recollection of how they had gotten there.

Victim B, a Brazilan, said that she "felt dizzy" and very sick after taking the drink. "I thought I might die," she said.

During his trial, which finished last month, Mr Blackston pleaded innocent and said that both women were telling "lies" and that they had willingly gone to his hotel. He said that Ms Furlong's friend had demanded sex from him in his hotel room.

Hotel CCTV footage shows Mr Blackston pushing the apparently unconscious victim A to his hotel room in a wheelchair.

Mr Hinds, who worked with Mr Blackston on the Ai concert tour, offered similar testimony in his trial, saying that Ms Furlong had initiated sex with him in his room.

In January, Mr Blackston described the evidence of Ms Furlong's friend as untruthful.  "I don't know why she lies, I don't hate you for it but.. .. why don't you just say what happened?"

But the judge today described Mr Blackston's testimony as "irrational."

He said that Mr Blackston had claimed in court that he had no sexual interest in victim A, but the CCTV camera in the taxi taking them to the Keio Plaza hotel recorded him making explicit references to the two Irish women.

The CCTV camera also records Mr Blackston assaulting Ms Furlong's friend. During his trial the prosecution said that he had initially denied to police that any contact between him and Victim A took place, but changed his story when the police showed him the footage. He then admitted contact had occurred but said it was consensual.

But the judge today ruled that neither victim A or B provided consent, and were not in a position to provide consent as they were not conscious.

The judge took 150 days off Mr Blackston’s three-year sentence for time already served on remand.

The prosecution had requested a 4-year sentence. The judge said that Mr Blackston's young age, his lack of a criminal record and the fact that he had employment as a professional dancer stood in his favor.

But while neither victim had remembered the assault, the judge said that he had inflicted psychological distress on them.

The American showed no emotion when he was sentenced. He has the right to appeal, though it is not clear if he will exercise this right. His lawyer, Tsutomu Nakamura, declined to comment as he left court.

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