Ronald Suzukawa had been a computer analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency for 26 years. He had received top performance ratings and earned a high-security clearance.
But during a routine review of Suzukawa's security clearance last year, agency investigators got some disturbing news. Alexandria police said they suspected that from 1992 to 1995, he had tried to rape several of his neighbors in the high-rise apartment complex where he lived at the time.
Agency staff members interrogated him about the allegations for a total of 23 hours over seven sessions. Finally, on July 16, Suzukawa, 49, told investigators that he had committed sexual assaults and break-ins at the 17-story Aspen House complex. They turned him over to police, and he was later indicted on 23 counts involving seven alleged victims.
Yesterday, on the opening day of Suzukawa's trial in Alexandria Circuit Court, his attorneys acknowledged that he had confessed to the crimes--both to his employer and to police. But they told jurors that it was a "false confession" and that police used the security clearance review to revive a case against Suzukawa that they had been unable to prove earlier.
"The police destroyed Mr. Suzukawa's confidence in his memory and supplied him with details of the crime," defense attorney Lisa Kemler said. After they had planted the seed of doubt, she said, he eventually told them, "I must have done these things."
Kemler also said police destroyed evidence and disregarded other leads.
But Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Molly Sullivan implored jurors to consider the amount of information that Suzukawa provided about each of the seven alleged victims in his statement to police.
"The defendant knew all kinds of details about what happened in the middle of the night," Sullivan said. "The details are important."
The 23 charges include seven counts of breaking into apartments with intent to rape, three counts of attempted rape and three counts of sexual battery.
Sullivan said Suzukawa targeted apartments that had not been deadbolted. Six of the seven reported victims are women. In the other case, Suzukawa broke into an apartment expecting to find a woman and instead confronted a man lying on a mattress on the floor, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Suzukawa was able to conceal his identity because the incidents occurred at night and because he sometimes wore a mask.
Suzukawa resigned from his job at the Defense Intelligence Agency and is being held in jail without bond.
A woman who took the stand yesterday said she was sexually assaulted eight years ago when she lived on the 15th floor of the apartment complex. The woman, who was 20 at the time, said she told her attacker that she might have cancer. "I was trying to get him not to rape me," she told the jury.
After the attack, he kissed her on the cheek, said he was sorry and left, the woman testified. The Washington Post is not naming the woman because of its policy of not identifying victims of alleged sexual assault.
Sullivan told the jury that in his statement to police, Suzukawa was able to recall many details of that attack, including his apology to the woman after she told him that she might have cervical cancer.
But Kemler told jurors that Suzukawa had learned many such details about the case either from news accounts or from police when they questioned him in 1994 and 1995.
Kemler also said her client was denied the opportunity to clear himself because police destroyed physical evidence, including blood and hair, that was collected at some of the crime scenes. Not even the original case file can be located, she said.
She said Suzukawa lived at Aspen House for many years and moved out in 1998 after he got married. He was considered an "extremely dedicated" employee, she said, and only admitted to the crimes after the interrogations wore him down.
Kemler told jurors that there is no question that Suzukawa's seven neighbors were "truly victims" and that their apartments were broken into. Only one issue is in dispute, she said: "Who did these things?"