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NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. – A Japanese tourist is being credited with helping build a case against a man suspected of throwing her to the ground and stealing her purse and shoes after she got lost and asked him for directions during a visit to Niagara Falls.
Koyuki Nakahara recently returned to New York to testify against Robert Macleod in the Christmas night attack, authorities said.
"Without her coming back to testify, the case likely would have been dismissed with no conviction," Deputy Niagara County District Attorney Doreen Hoffman said Wednesday. "Because under the constitution, you have the right to confront your accuser and we can't indict a case based on hearsay. We can't just put in written statements given by victims."
It's a requirement that can embolden criminals who target tourists, she said.
"Criminals don't anticipate them to be here to prosecute," Hoffman said.
Robert Macleod, 44, of Niagara Falls, was arrested about a week after the attack. Nakahara, 41, was hit several times in the head and body and was treated at a hospital.
Macleod pleaded not guilty to robbery and assault and was released on $25,000 bail.
Niagara Falls police and the district attorney's office have scheduled a news conference for Thursday, when they are expected to release details of a grand jury proceeding that could result in more serious charges.
No phone listing was available for Macleod. The attorney who represented him when he was arrested didn't respond to a telephone message seeking comment.
Nakahara told police she had been traveling with a tour group when she ventured out of her hotel on her own Dec. 25 and became lost. She was attacked after asking the suspect for help, she said. After being knocked to the ground, she was told to lay there while the man fled with her purse and shoes. Macleod was arrested after police released surveillance pictures.
Nakahara left the area after testifying before the grand jury, authorities said, but appeared willing to return again if necessary should Macleod be indicted and go to trial.
"She's always had such a great attitude," Hoffman said. "She doesn't seem to hold it against the area or the United States in general."
Robberies and assaults are relatively rare in Niagara Falls State Park, state statistics show. From 2011 to 2014, state parks police received an average of two reports of robberies — involving the use or threat of violence — and no more than one assault report each year. An average of 43 larcenies per year was reported, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.