Man not guilty by reason of insanity for airplane assault

AP News
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Posted: Feb 24, 2016 7:30 PM

HONOLULU (AP) — A man who tried to rape a woman in the bathroom of a Japan Airlines flight is not guilty by reason of insanity, a judge ruled at a brief trial Wednesday.

The verdict is based on facts that Michael Tanouye's defense attorney and a prosecutor agreed upon, including conclusions from mental health evaluations.

Not guilty by reason of insanity is "the only reasonable and sensible" verdict, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson said.

Doctors determined Tanouye, of Hilo, Hawaii, suffers from severe mental illness and didn't know what he was doing was wrong at the time of the October 2014 assault, defense attorney Richard Sing said.

The captain of the plane decided to turn around and return to Hawaii because of the incident, court documents said.

The flight was en route to Kansai International Airport when Tanouye forced his way into a bathroom and sexually assaulted a woman, according to an FBI affidavit. The woman, who was returning home to Japan with her mother after a four-day vacation in Hawaii, went to use the restroom about an hour and 45 minutes after takeoff.

While struggling with Tanouye the woman was able to push the bathroom's emergency button. The woman's mother, the flight attendants and other passengers tried to open the lavatory door but were unable because Tanouye was blocking the door, the affidavit said. They had to open the door by removing screws from its hinges.

Before the incident, Tanouye was heard shouting something incomprehensible, and his mother told a flight attendant he suffers from depression and is on medication. He stood up to walk around and appeared calm, telling flight attendants he was going to visit his grandmother. Flight attendants agreed not to serve him alcohol because he was on medication.

After the incident, Tanouye's mother gave him a dose of his medicine and he fell asleep, the affidavit said.

The verdict is the same for a charge that Tanouye assaulted an inmate at Honolulu Federal Detention Center after the plane landed in Honolulu.

Tanouye is expected to go to a North Carolina facility for further mental health evaluations. A hearing will determine whether Tanouye is dangerous.

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Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/JenHapa. Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/jennifer-sinco-kelleher.