Vol. 5, No. 2
Jan. 30, 1995
Former Police Officer Recalls Details of Event
IN the Jan. 9 edition of this newsletter, we carried the first part of an interview with Barry B. Langberg, attorney for Hiroe Clow in her defamation lawsuit against Nikken Abe and others. In this issue we present the second part of that interview, which was conducted by Ted Morino, managing editor of the World Tribune. The defamation took place in relation to Mrs. Clow?s statements about what has become known as the ?Seattle Incident,? which she first made public in 1992.
That incident involved Nikken Abe, now high priest of Nichiren Shoshu, when he was dispatched to the United States to conduct the first overseas Gohonzon conferral (gojukai) ceremony for Soka Gakkai members. On that occasion, Mrs. Clow was summoned late at night by the Seattle police to the site where Nikken was being detained after having been involved in a dispute with prostitutes.
Not wanting such a disgraceful event to mar the history of kosen-rufu, Mrs. Clow kept the matter to herself for years. She brought it to light, however, following a series of groundless and malicious actions by Nikken that cast further doubt on his qualifications as high priest.
Later, after Nikken called Mrs. Clow a liar and a perjurer, denying that this and other episodes ever took place, Mrs. Clow filed suit for defamation. In our last issue, Mr. Langberg discussed the facts of the case and revealed for the first time the existence of evidence that supports Mrs. Clow?s account of what happened in Seattle. That evidence is in the form of a record in U.S. government files that documents Nikken?s detention by the Seattle police in March 1963. In this segment of the interview, Mr. Langberg brings to light further evidence that supports the veracity of Mrs. Clow?s claims. This consists of the existence of a former Seattle police officer who was actually involved in the Seattle Incident.These revelations not only support the truth of Mrs. Clow?s account of the Seattle Incident, but also show clearly that Nikken Abe is in no way qualified to hold the position of high priest of Nichiren Shoshu.
As Nichiren Daishonin states, ?The real meaning of the Lord Shakyamuni Buddha?s appearance in this world lay in his behavior as a human being? (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 281). Thus, our standard for judging who is qualified to teach Buddhism must always be based on that person?s behavior and sincerity.
WORLD TRIBUNE: We were surprised to hear that a record exists in U.S. government files that supports Mrs. Clow?s statements about the Seattle Incident. But now you say you have further evidence?
LANGBERG: Yes, we do. We have located an eyewitness. Undoubtedly, no one ever expected to find a witness to events that occurred 30 years ago. Nevertheless, amazing as it might seem, we?ve actually been able to locate one of the police officers who was involved in the incident. He is a former officer of the Seattle Police Department who recalls the episode and who, we believe, will testify to such when this case comes to trial.
WT: That?s an important discovery. Nikken has flatly denied his involvement in the incident and has claimed he never set foot outside of the hotel that night. But the record in U.S. government files and the existence of the police officer who was at the scene would seem to make it impossible for him to continue to conceal the truth and paint Mrs. Clow as the villain. What specifically does this witness remember about the incident?
LANGBERG: His memories seem to be very clear and they are consistent with the events described by Mrs. Clow. First, it?s important to note that our investigation of the conditions that existed in the neighborhood where the incident occurred in 1963 is consistent with Mrs. Clow?s statement. The detailed inquiry conducted by our investigators has established that it was a disreputable neighborhood, that there was a lot of prostitution in the neighborhood at the time, and has given us a very detailed description of the structures that stood there.
As a result of this thorough and methodical investigation, we were able to locate a retired Seattle police officer who, in March 1963, was assigned to patrol the very area that Mrs. Clow has identified as the scene of the incident. He spontaneously identified the specific location where the incident occurred before our investigator asked him about it. This is the same location that Mrs. Clow recalls. Naturally, that former officer does not remember the name Nobuo Abe. However, he does recall, to a considerable degree, the details of the incident.
He remembers, for instance, that there was a dispute or confrontation between an Asian male fitting Nikken?s description and several prostitutes. He recalls that the Asian male spoke no English, so he (the officer) had to call a female acquaintance of the Asian man to the scene in that disreputable area late at night. He also remembers certain other details of the incident. It was quite an unusual event for the officer at the time, and apparently that is why the officer remembers it to this day.
WT: Knowing that such compelling evidence exists, isn?t it all the more vital that the truth be revealed in court?
LANGBERG: Again, since the Los Angeles Superior Court has found that it does not have jurisdiction over Nikken, a trial on the substance of the case cannot take place under the present circumstances. Of course, we?ve appealed this jurisdictional ruling and we believe that there is an excellent chance that the appellate court will rule that jurisdiction does exist. It is our objective to bring this matter to trial so that we can present the evidence we have gathered.
WT: You spoke before about the system where a retired judge may be retained to hear and decide the case. Would that be a valuable option at this juncture?
LANGBERG: Certainly. This system is provided for in the California Constitution and the Code of Civil Procedure. However, both parties must agree to the use of this procedure. Pursuant to this agreement, a retired judge would be hired to sit with the full power of the regular court and would have the ability to make a decision resolving the case. The retired judge?s decision could be appealable to the regular Court of Appeal of the State of California unless both parties agree that such a decision would be final and not appealable.
If the defendants agree to this proposal, a retired judge could be hired to hear the case. The judge can supervise limited discovery before trial, thus allowing the process to be expeditious and economical. However, as I said, the other side must agree to participate in this process, and I?m not optimistic that they will do so. In proposing the use of retired judge, I am simply attempting to open every avenue for presenting the evidence and obtaining the truth.
WT: It will be very interesting to see how they respond. At this point, I?d like to direct a question to Mrs. Clow who, for 30 years, was alone in shouldering her knowledge of the Seattle incident.
Mrs. Clow, three years ago, you came forward with the truth about this affair. No matter how you look at it, I don?t think anyone can really appreciate how difficult it has been and continues to be for you. When I think of your devotion in keeping these matters to yourself for so long, your courage and sense of justice in later making these revelations, and your sincere faith that lay behind both these decisions, I can only commend you. I?d like to take this opportunity to ask you to please share with us your feelings, now that we have heard this evidence.
CLOW: It?s been about two-and-a-half years since I filed this suit against Nikken Abe and others for defamation. I feel great appreciation for all of the warm encouragement and support I?ve gotten from so many people during this time. It?s very reassuring to hear that such concrete evidence has been found. While the truth, of course, has been clear to me from the beginning, I?m deeply thankful for the tremendous efforts made by Mr. Langberg and others to bring these things to light.
To those of us who had been struggling to spread Nichiren Daishonin?s Buddhism in America 32 years ago, the first Gohonzon conferral ceremony to be held outside of Japan was an extremely important event. We were all convinced that it would mark a very significant juncture in the history of kosen-rufu. The members in America at the time were all determined to make this ceremony an absolute success and, despite our personal difficulties, we voluntarily offered our time to prepare. We received the priests who had been dispatched here with the utmost sincerity and earnestness.
So when I was called to the scene of the incident Nikken had involved himself in, my only thought was that I must not by any means allow a blemish to be made upon kosen-rufu and that I must somehow get this priest to Chicago where the members were sincerely waiting for him. I did everything I could to try to solve this problem with the police. To this day I remember how Nikken, despondent and in tears, thanked me profusely. Afterward, again not wanting to taint the history of kosen-rufu in America, I kept my knowledge of this and other episodes strictly to myself.
WT: In that case, for Nikken, who actually should thank you, to call you a liar is extremely ungrateful, and a deep affront to your personal honor, isn?t it?
CLOW: Yes, it is, and that?s why I felt compelled to bring this lawsuit. Since then, Nikken and the other defendants have been trying desperately to avoid having the facts aired in court. But there is only one truth. If what Nikken is saying is true, then he should have the courage to face me squarely in the courtroom. My earnest desire is to stand face to face with Nikken in court and clarify once and for all who is telling the truth.
WT: I understand. For our part, we are deeply convinced of your honesty and integrity. I sincerely hope and pray that, after having suffered such base and unwarranted slander, your reputation will be fully restored, whether it be in or outside of court. Nikken himself has said that if what you say about the Seattle Incident is true, he will resign from his position as high priest. For this reason, I think it is deeply important that the facts of the case be made clear. We?ll be watching with great interest to see what happens.
Comments from Soka Gakkai President Akiya
The following is a summary of a speech by Soka Gakkai President Einosuke Akiya at a recent meeting held in Saitama, Japan. In it, he announces and comments on the revelation of new evidence in the Seattle Incident. That information was first made public in the Jan. 9 edition of this newsletter.
The World Tribune, the newspaper of the SGI organization in the United States, recently interviewed Barry B. Langberg, counsel for Hiroe Clow in her defamation lawsuit against Nikken and others, and has presented a report on the Seattle Incident case proceedings.
In his comments, Mr. Langberg attests to Mrs. Clow?s character, voicing his confidence that she is a person who would not lie under any circumstance. He also reports that he has recently come upon conclusive evidence to substantiate Mrs. Clow?s statement about Nikken?s conduct in Seattle in March 1963.
The Jan. 9 issue of ?The SGI-USA Newsletter? explains the state of the legal proceedings surrounding the Seattle Incident. According to the article, an investigation requested by Mr. Langberg led to the discovery of some significant evidence. A letter to Mrs. Clow from the law firm of Steel, Hector & Davis, which was charged with carrying out the investigation, reads:
Dear Ms. Clow:
You requested us to investigate whether the United States government has maintained any records of an investigation concerning an individual known as Nobuo Abe, a foreign national, born December 19, 1922. Subsequent to this request, we engaged… a highly-prestigious private investigations firm.…[The investigation firm] reported to us on November 17, 1994, that a source within the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. was contacted and the source confirmed to the firm that there is a record for Nobuo Abe. According to the firm?s report to us, the record refers to:
Suspicion of Solicitation of Prostitution
Seattle Police Department
From 1974 to 1979, I served as an Assistant United States Attorney and Special Attorney with the United States Department of Justice. Following my government service, I have been practicing law primarily in the area of criminal defense. Based on my experience, the contents of the record on Nobuo Abe, as revealed to us by [the firm], indicate to me that some type of inquiry or investigation regarding suspicion of solicitation of prostitution was conducted in March, 1963, by the Seattle Police Department on Nobuo Abe.
I am able to testify as to the truthfulness and accuracy of my statements in this letter.
Very truly yours,[signed] Rebekah J. Poston
This letter confirms the existence of a record in the possession of the U.S. government that pertains to Nikken?s activities in Seattle.
Thus, there is in fact a record that Nikken, under the name Nobuo Abe, was investigated by the Seattle police in March 1963 on suspicion of solicitation of prostitution. No matter how Nikken may now try to explain things away, irrefutable evidence exists.
As you already know, the Seattle Incident refers to a shameful episode in which Nikken, while in the United States to conduct the first overseas Gohonzon conferral (gojukai) ceremonies in 1963, stole out of his hotel in the middle of the night and ended up in a dispute with some prostitutes.
Nikken has accused Hiroe Clow, who bravely went public with her direct knowledge of these events, of being a liar, and has otherwise impugned her reputation. As a result, Mrs. Clow has been struggling to has her name cleared in court. This is what the defamation lawsuit surrounding the Seattle Incident is about.
The material that has recently come to light represents conclusive and incontrovertible evidence that in March 1963 a person named Nobuo Abe was investigated by the Seattle police on suspicion of solicitation of prostitution.
Before becoming high priest, Nikken went by the name of Shinno Abe. However, his first name was written with Chinese characters that could also be read ?Nobuo.? At the time of the incident, Mrs. Clow was unaware that the correct reading for his first name was Shinno. As a result, ?Nobuo Abe? was the name she reported to the police when she came to Nikken?s aid.
All of the facts that Mrs. Clow has related are true. And now the veracity of her statements has been corroborated.
As is described in The New Human Revolution, the Seattle Incident occurred during the first trip by Nichiren Shoshu priests to conduct Gohonzon conferral ceremonies outside of Japan — a landmark event. This trip took place in the immediate aftermath of the arduous steps taken by President Ikeda to open the way for kosen-rufu in America following his 1960 inauguration as the third Soka Gakkai president.
For Nikken to sneak out of his hotel in the middle of the night and become involved with prostitutes while responsible for such an important undertaking is an unprecedented betrayal of the members? trust and sincerity. Such conduct is totally inexcusable.
For 29 years, Mrs. Clow admirably kept her knowledge of these facts to herself in the belief that it would be wrong to shame the priesthood. For Nikken now to call her a liar — thus repaying his debt of gratitude with a vengeful attack — and attack her reputation is most unpardonable.
Apparently convinced that no evidence could be produced for something that had occurred so long ago, Nikken made light of her accusations and, hiding behind a facade of dignity, completely denied the testimony of the pure-hearted Mrs. Clow.
On July 22, 1992, shortly after Mrs. Clow released her statement, Nikken made the following rejection of Mrs. Clow?s accusations at a memorial service for 66th High Priest Nittatsu:
Well, about that problem of the Gohonzon conferral ceremony overseas, the one in Seattle. It?s ridiculous, isn?t it? They?re talking as if something happened when nothing did. Really, because no, I didn?t do anything like that.
Then, at the Hokkeko General Pilgrimage on July 25 of the same year, Nikken looked up at the participants in the course of his speech and inquired, ?Is this the face of someone who could have committed the kinds of things that are alleged to have occurred in Seattle?? When the Hokkeko members responded with silence, he became flustered and told them: ?You should [have the courtesy to] say ?No.?? This incident is well known.
In August of the same year, he obstinately claimed: ?I never set foot outside the hotel. I have no memory whatsoever of any such incident; and that?s because there?s nothing to remember.?
It was under such circumstances that Mrs. Clow, on Sept. 17, sued Nikken for defamation.
Later, fearful of having the court hear the merits of the case, Nikken challenged the court?s jurisdiction. With this he effectively escaped the ?playing field.?
Elated by the success of this tactic, Nikken remarked at the First Guidance Meeting for Hokkeko Leaders and Vice Leaders, held on Aug. 21, 1994:
If what they?re saying were true, you know, I would immediately resign. I couldn?t carry on — if things like that were true. Above all, it would make it impossible to hold this position.
He thus brazenly announced that if the allegations made about the Seattle Incident were true, then he would step down as high priest.
Nichiren Daishonin would never tolerate such willful deception. The statement I wish to make to Nikken is this: Since there is now irrefutable evidence of your conduct, you must step down immediately. You should honor your public statement ?I couldn?t carry on? and tender your resignation now.
Nikken also became extremely anxious about a comment by Takudo Hosoi, the son of the late High Priest Nittatsu, who remarked about comments Nikken had made to him, ?You [Nikken] told me, ?I went outside and lost my way, and was helped by a local member.?? Recently, Nikken seems to have begun to suggest that the events to which Mr. Hosoi was referring took place ?not in Seattle but in Chicago.? Nikken should stop insulting our intelligence. The account of his unexplained absence in Chicago is also well known and can in no way be confused with the incident in Seattle. How long are these lies going to continue?
In the Nirvana Sutra we find the passage, ?If a person sees someone slandering the Law and disregards him, failing to reproach him, to oust him or to punish him for his offense, then that person is betraying Buddhism.? Shakyamuni taught that people who destroy Buddhism should be strictly rebuked and driven off.
It is now time to avow that we will not tolerate such evil and to call for Nikken?s immediate resignation.
In the end, justice will definitely prevail. Let us continue to advance in a dignified and stately manner. At the same time, let’s resolutely challenge and defeat those devilish forces that look contemptuously upon the members and attempt to obstruct kosen-rufu.