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Japanese visitor returns to Niagara Falls to take on suspect

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Koyuki Nakahara, of Japan, is being credited with helping build a case against Robert Macleod, suspected of throwing her to the ground and stealing her purse and shoes after she got lost and asked him for directions during a visit to Niagara Falls on Christmas night last year.

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. » After being violently thrown to the ground and robbed of her purse and shoes during her first visit to Niagara Falls, Japanese tourist Koyuki Nakahara thought she would never return.

Yet she was back in New York last week, this time at the request of prosecutors who said her testimony was crucial in making sure her attacker would be punished.

“If I did not come back he would be released. It wasn’t fair,” Nakahara said by phone Thursday, the day prosecutors in Niagara County announced an indictment in the case.

Robert Macleod, of Niagara Falls, was indicted on charges of robbery, robbery as a sexually motivated felony, sexual abuse and assault. He was arrested Dec. 31 after police released pictures from surveillance cameras, and he pleaded not guilty to robbery and assault and was released on $25,000 bail.

A phone listing for Macleod wasn’t available, and the attorney who represented him when he was arrested didn’t respond to phone messages seeking comment. Arraignment on the new charges is expected this month.

Deputy District Attorney Doreen Hoffman said that without Nakahara’s return to testify last week “the case likely would have been dismissed with no conviction.”

“Under the Constitution, you have the right to confront your accuser, and we can’t indict a case based on hearsay,” Hoffman said. “We can’t just put in written statements given by victims.”

It’s a right that can embolden criminals who target tourists, Hoffman said.

“Criminals don’t anticipate them to be here to prosecute,” she said.

Nakahara returned to the place where the man she’d asked for directions on Christmas night responded by pounding her face into the concrete and dragging her into the dark, where she feared she would be raped.

“I don’t have to go. Just forget it,” Nakahara had told herself at home in Tokyo, convinced she had put the attack, which left her bruised and frightened, behind her.

Then a Skype call with prosecutors who asked her to recount details brought home how deeply she’d been affected. Testifying would make Niagara Falls safer for other women and would prove empowering for her, she decided.

“I decided it’s OK to show my feelings and let the criminal know you cannot do that,” she said. “You cannot hurt me because I am a woman, I’m not as strong as you or I’m not living here or whatever.”

During a news conference Thursday, authorities praised Nakahara’s bravery and said they were happy to pay the travel costs to bring her back to the United States.

“To step on a plane and travel for days to come back to an area that certainly, unfortunately, does not have pleasant memories and meet some people that she barely knew and relive the events that she’d rather forget — wow,” Assistant District Attorney Robert Zucco said.

Robberies and assaults are relatively rare in Niagara Falls State Park, state statistics show. From 2011 to 2014, state parks police received an average of two reports of robberies involving the use or threat of violence and no more than one report of assault each year. Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, a Democrat, called the chances of being victimized “exceedingly low,” especially considering the influx of 8 million to 9 million tourists each year.

Nakahara had been traveling with a tour group when she ventured out of her hotel on her own and became lost. The stranger she asked to point her in the right direction at first seemed helpful. Then he pulled her hair and pushed her down to the ground. When he dragged her to a dark and secluded area, she was sure she would be raped and wondered if she would survive. But her attacker eventually fled, and she was taken to a hospital.

The Associated Press generally doesn’t identify people who say they’re victims of sexual abuse, but Nakahara has said she wanted to discuss her case publicly.

Nakahara later continued on with her trip, which included stops in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, not wanting to be deprived by the attack of her chance to enjoy her travels.

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      • Yep, I say bring back the days when shoplifters had their hands cut off, liars had their tongues cut off, rapists had their you-know-what cut off, and fools who wrote ignorant things on the Internet had their computers and smart devices smashed to pieces. Make America great again!!!

  • She owes it to herself to do all she can to put her attacker behind bars. It may hurt her now make the effort, but years and years of self-doubt await her if she doesn’t try. And if it prevents just one other woman from being victimized, it’ll have been worth it.

    • Expense paid trip may have influenced her. We have visited Niagara Falls 3 times, after graduating from college, another to entertain mother-in-law from Japan and 3rd for journey through Canada from Detroit to Quebec and down through Maine, Cape Cod and back to Indiana.

      • You’re not suggesting that she is going because she doesn’t have to pay for this trip? This is not a pleasure trip, for fiodness sake! Paying her way back is the least the city should do to convict this criminal and keep the city safe for its own citizens. If not for her bravery and conviction, the suspect would be free to prey on others. We should all applaud her and encourage victims to testify in the name of justice.

        • Unfortunately that is what cojef is suggesting. Apparently not everyone believes her story and how traumatic it must have been, to think that she’d want to return to the scene of such a horrible crime even if someone else was paying for the trip.

  • It took a lot of courage for her to return but she did and I hope that punk suspect is found guilty and literally thrown in jail. Nothing more and nothing less.

  • Ridiculous that our twisted, tortured legal system makes the victim spend all that money and time where they could have done via skype.

    • Under the Constitution the accused has a right to confront the accuser. A positive identification cannot be attempted via Skype. Doubts would be brought up by the defense and the case would go on or get thrown out until the actual victim ends up in court to stand and ID the perp.

      • These are good points. I’ve talked to people on Skype and sometimes can’t hear them properly. It’s great she’s making this journey. Perhaps someday we’ll be able to do “virtual testimony” but that day is not here yet.

  • That’s why tourists are frequent targets since a lot of them don’t bother to return to testify. Maybe they need to make is easier for these victims and have a way for them to testify by video conference instead of having to fly all the way back from whatever country they live in. Props to that lady for the courage to testify since that experience was probably something she wanted to forget. My wife told me a story about somebody trying to steal her purse while she was visiting New York, but caught the guy before he got away. The guy said he thought the purse was abandoned and didn’t belong to anybody.

  • I give her props to returning to the US to testify. I think most of us wouldn’t. If we can take anything from this, let it be this: Don’t be so trusting of others. You want to rely on strangers when it comes to your safety and well-being??? Look up from your phone once in a while and be aware of what’s going on around you. Walk around in Yellow. Not White(Colors of Awareness). Google it…

    • Geez. She wasn’t relying on strangers for her safety and well being, she just asked for directions.

      Your “take” on this story might be blaming the victim for getting robbed and assaulted but fortunately the prevailing view seems to be different.

  • Laws cannot protect you. Punishment will come after the crime and only if a conviction by trial occurs. A victim is forever scarred.

  • Regarding: “Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, a Democrat, called the chances of being victimized “exceedingly low,” especially considering the influx of 8 million to 9 million tourists each year.”

    What’s the deal mentioning the Mayor’s political party (democrat) ???

  • This thief picked on the wrong woman. Hopefully this thief gets what he deserves which is time in prison.
    Kudos also to Nakahara for having the courage to return so this thief escapes his deserved punishment.

  • I hope they are putting her up in a great hotel, covering her meals, and even paid for someone to accompany her to offer moral support, Might cost but the payback would be that other tourists would be willing to testify.

    How does Hawaii handle this?

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