Unfortunately, I could not get the article to come up on the internet regarding the verdict in the case, but I do have an opinion (everyone has one!) on the overall situation...
I have been able to travel to Naha many times through the years on business and have seen what happens there in the night life. And it is a mess.
I am most familiar with the area outside of Kadena Airbase, and there really aren't many things for US military people to do outside of base, that is if you aren't into water activities. Many of the people are young, and live on the "wild" side. The first thing you see when you go out the gate when heading towards BK Street, are Fillapean (sp??) hostess clubs, pawn shops, and many other clubs. Heavy drinking occurs regularly and on weekends, really increases. I have been there when curfews were imposed back in '96, and things had really quieted down a lot. People had to be back on the base at an early time, I think it was around 10:00 or 11:00. Younger military are lured in to clubs and end up losing most of their money, and end up getting out of the box.
I think bases need to make more appealling activities that are on the bases itself to make better alternatives, to keep people off of the streets late at night. Places like "whisper alley" need to be cleaned up, so people won't frequent areas such as that. Americans over there definitely create many problems around that area.
In contrast, where I was residing in Yokohama, more specifically in Sagamihara, serious crimes, such as rape was a rare problem with the US military. I feel the one reason why was (is) that there are many different things to do and see. There were petty crimes, but no where near the frequency and degree of extremity as in the Naha area.
With regards to the 3 year sentence, I think it is quite light. But as the article states the prosecution states that this is the norm. In Japan, there legal system is quite different in some ways when it comes to sentencing a convicted person. Rape is one of the crimes that do not carry such a heavy sentencing in Japan as it is the opposite in the US. Another example was the sentencing (and the whole overall process) of how the Secretary Scandle was handled from beginning to end. Top executives and senior politicians got off quite easily considering how much money was embezzled from their corporation's accounts or govt accounts, in comparison for how much time they received in prison, and fines, etc. Afterall, it is their legal system, not ours.
In contrast, if a person were to be found with a small amount of marijuana in Japan, if found guilty, could face up to 10 years in prison. Quite a contrast to the states (unless you live in the "bible belt).
It is interesting though, if you speak to some Japanese citizens who are quite familiar with the US, and its legal system, they truly are outraged at their legal system for reform, to create stronger penalities for various crimes. I have seen major demonstrations in some of the different areas of Tokyo, some being in Shijuku, Ueno, and Shibuya expressing this very idea.
As the article mentions about SOFA, this became the major point of emphasis initially when the rape occurred. The Japanese court system wanted the airman "badly" to be put into the Japanese legal system. The time that it did eventually take for the US to hand him over really "kicked the bee hive" with the Japanese public, and lawmakers.
I feel Japan's desires to modify SOFA are of merit, but total loss of a SOFA agreement is not an option. I don't know all of the particular details (it is quite lengthy, and involves UCMJ), but I feel that the service members need to have their US rights protected while serving in Japan, or in any other country. When conditions are appropriate, then the person should (and in most cases) will be handed over to the host govt. Presently Japan lawmakers are wanting servicemembers to be immediately handed over to Japanese officials. "Immediately" being the key word. This strips the US servicemember of his US rights "immediately." I think it is fair that conditions for being handed over should be relooked, but I find it hard to see the US military to give in 100% in this issue...