US dancer convicted of assault on Furlong friend

James Blackston sentenced to three years in prison for assaulting friend on night Nicola Furlong died

The funeral of Nicola Furlong making its way through the village of Curracloe in Co Wexford last June.

The funeral of Nicola Furlong making its way through the village of Curracloe in Co Wexford last June.

Wed, Mar 13, 2013, 12:12

The friend of an American on trial for the murder of an Irish exchange student in Tokyo has been convicted of sexually assaulting the woman she was with on the night she died.

Tokyo District Court found James Blackston guilty today and sentenced him to three years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for a four-year sentence.

Blackston, a 23-year-old dancer from Los Angeles, was accused of assaulting the woman in a taxi on the way to a Tokyo hotel last May after he and Richard Hinds took her and Nicola Furlong out drinking.

Hinds, from Memphis, Tennessee, is on trial separately on charges of murdering Ms Furlong in another room at the hotel. Testimony in Hinds’ trial ended today and a verdict is expected next Tuesday.

According to evidence in both trials, Ms Furlong and her friend, who is also Irish but whose name is being withheld, went to Tokyo to see a Nicki Minaj concert.

After the concert, the two met Hinds and Blackston and went with them to a bar. At some point both of the women passed out. Prosecutors have suggested they were drugged.

Security camera footage presented as evidence showed Blackston sexually assaulting Ms Furlong’s friend in a taxi on the way to the hotel, where the men borrowed wheelchairs to get the unconscious women to the rooms.

Prosecutors say Hinds strangled Ms Furlong, a Dublin City University student from Curracloe, Co Wexford, with a towel to keep her quiet after she regained consciousness.

Hinds denies the charges.

PA