Thursday, May 01, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — A Hampshire Superior Court jury Wednesday found former University of Massachusetts student Weilang Wang not guilty of rape and indecent assault and battery charges resulting from an incident in his dorm room last year.
Wang, 19, was “elated and relieved,” to hear the verdict, said his defense attorney, John Connor of Greenfield.
Wang’s mother and aunt made the trip from China to support him and wept and embraced him following the verdict. Neither woman speaks English, Connor said, and were unable to follow most of the trial proceedings apart from what they could overhear from the translators.
The jury composed of 10 women and two men took about six hours to reach its verdict that Wang was not guilty of rape and three counts of indecent assault and battery. The jury deliberated for about an hour Tuesday and reached its verdict about 1:45 p.m. Wednesday.
“My opinion was, if the jury believed the complainant didn’t tell them the truth about the relationship, then they weren’t inclined to believe the rest of it,” Connor said following the jury’s verdict.
The Northwestern district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment about the verdict.
Juror Stephanie Skowronek of Northampton said in a telephone interview after the verdict was announced, “I knew he wasn’t guilty. There were just things that didn’t add up.”
Skowronek said there was not enough compelling evidence presented by the prosecution to convince the jury that a non-consensual incident occurred.
Wang’s accuser was not present when the verdict was announced. It is Gazette policy not to name the victims or alleged victims of sexual assaults.
Wang, a Chinese national, was a computer science major at UMass when he called campus police the night of Feb. 19, 2013, to report that he had attempted to rape a girl. A short time later he was barred from campus.
Connor said he was not sure what Wang’s plans are now that he has been cleared of the charges. Connor added that he believes UMass should lift the trespass order against Wang.
A UMass spokesman said in an interview Wednesday that if Wang, who is not now enrolled at the school, seeks to be reinstated he would go through the student code of conduct process. The university would review the matter and determine if any sanctions are appropriate.
With the aid of two Mandarin translators, Wang took the stand in his own defense during the trial, which began April 23.
Wang said he and the woman, also a Chinese student, were in a new relationship although she had a boyfriend in China. After she became upset about the prospect of her reputation being tarnished by dating two men at once and her boyfriend in China finding out, Wang testified that he and the woman created a story of a sexual assault to deflect blame from her.
“I think he virtually had no chance of prevailing unless he told his story,” Connor said. “It’s a hard thing to overcome essentially a full confession to the police that played for two hours to the jury.”
“I’ve known from the very beginning, from the first day I met Weilang, that there were cultural undercurrents that were going to be difficult for a jury here in the United States maybe to understand,” Connor said.
“It is considered, in his culture, a very, very, bad thing for a young girl to be courting two men at once,” said Connor. “And, he knew if it got out ... it could be very detrimental for her, for her reputation.”
Connor added that it was one of the more unusual cases he has tried.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.