Shinto priest cleared of molesting; touching 'part of religious practice,' says judge

A Shinto priest was found not guilty Wednesday on charges of molesting a junior high school student as a court said his touching her body was part of a religious practice.

Ryoichi Sakamoto, 36, touched the then 15-year-old girl in October 2002 at a religious facility in Sendai, now part of Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, in order to dispel "negative vibes" from her as she had problems with her health and school work. Although the priest touched her breast, Judge Atsushi Tomita said, "It is a religious practice, combined with Oriental medicine, and I cannot recognize the defendant had sexual intent."