Catherine Fisher with a picture of her attacker. Picture: Gran Ole
In a landmark case, on September 6, 2012, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Circuit Court Judge gave standing to an Australian woman to collect a Japanese civil judgment against a former US Navy sailor for raping her in Japan 11 years ago.
A civil judgment by a Tokyo court in 2004 ordered sailor Bloke T. Deans to pay 3 million yen in damages to Catherine Jane Fisher as compensation for emotional and physical harm from the rape. However, despite knowing of the Japanese court case against Deans, the US Navy issued Deans an honorable discharge and allowed him to leave Japan without informing either the Japanese court or Ms. Fisher.
For 10 years, Ms. Fisher searched for Mr. Deans and in 2011 she finally located him in Milwaukee. In May, 2012, Ms. Fisher filed a suit against Mr. Deans in Milwaukee Circuit Court.
Ms. Fisher's journey to hold her rapist accountable has been shown in the Australian TV documentary "The Power of One" on the national "60 Minutes" series.
The case is slowly proceeding toward resolution.
On May 20, 2013, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge William S. Pocan denied a motion for summary judgment filed by defendant Bloke Deans asking that the Court refuse to enforce a 2004 judgment entered by the Tokyo district court against Deans finding him liable for sexually assaulting Ms. Fisher in 2002.
In denying Deans' motion, the Court found that Ms. Fisher was able to identify numerous factual disputes that, if resolved in Ms. Fisher's favor as part of any final trial in this case, would support entering judgment in her favor. By denying Dean's motion, the case will now be permitted to proceed toward final resolution, likely in late 2013.
Ms. Fisher will now be able to proceed with the substance of the case, in which her legal team from the Madison, Wisconsin office of law firm Perkins Coie will argue that under the common law principles of comity, the Milwaukee court should recognize and enforce the Japanese judgment.
At the earlier hearing, Perkins Coie law firm attorney Christopher Hanewicz stated, "We are very satisfied with the Judge's decision, which is an important step in holding Mr. Deans accountable for his actions, bringing some sense of closure to Ms. Fisher's ten year ordeal."
I attended that hearing and, while one in three women in the military are raped by fellow servicemen during their service, many civilian women living near US military bases in the United States and in other countries are also raped by US military personnel. This case gives hope for those living in other countries who have never been able to hold the rapist accountable because he has been able to leave the country.