Wednesday, April 30, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Prosecutors in the rape trial of former University of Massachusetts student Weilang Wang said he was a “manipulator” while his defense attorney said he was a man in love trying to protect the reputation of his alleged victim. The lawyers made the statements when they delivered closing arguments Tuesday.
Wang pleaded not guilty to one count of rape and three counts of indecent assault and battery in connection with an alleged assault of a female UMass student in his dorm room on Feb. 19, 2013. His trial began April 23.
It is Gazette policy not to name victims or alleged victims of sexual assaults.
Wang’s attorney, John Connor of Greenfield, put both hands on his client’s shoulders Tuesday and said, “He’s not a rapist, he didn’t sexually assault anybody.”
Connor said Wang was immediately attracted to the alleged victim when they met at orientation. Both were originally from China and first-year students at UMass.
It was at that meeting that Wang told the woman that her boyfriend in China was not a real boyfriend and he wanted to date her.
Connor called that remark a “brash teenage statement,” and said the two eventually began a friendship that developed into a “normal, budding teenage attraction and romance.”
Connor said Wang did not “set a trap” for the victim by luring her to his dorm room. The decision to come to his building was hers, Connor said, and the sexual activity was consensual.
According to the prosecution, the woman sent a text message on the night in question to her boyfriend in China. When the boyfriend called back, Wang answered the phone and told him he had taken his girl using Japanese and Chinese pop-culture references to luring a woman away from another relationship.
“Two men competing over the same girl?” Connor said. “That story’s 10,000 years old.”
Connor said Wang did not interfere while the victim spoke on the phone for 20 minutes with her boyfriend in China after the alleged attack and she never made an attempt to leave.
Connor said Wang and the woman concocted the story of a sexual assault in order for him to take responsibility and for her to avoid blame for cheating before he called a UMass dispatcher to tell them he may have raped someone.
Connor said at one point during his interview with police, Wang asked officers to revise parts of his statement he felt would cast the victim in a negative light.
“People have done a lot of stupid things for love,” Connor said.
In her closing statement, Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Carrie Russell said the victim rebuffed Wang’s advances right from the start.
Russell said, in spite of that, she still wanted to maintain a friendship.
“When she rebuffed those advances when she told him again and again that she did not want to be his girlfriend he took exactly what he wanted,” Russell said. “He took it by force and against her will.
“That is why what happened in that dorm room was such a violation of trust because this was her dear, close friend,” Russell said.
“It was not a trap,” she said. “But it was for Weilang Wang, an opportunity. Because what he wanted from the first moment he saw her, he now saw that right in his bed.”
Every witness who testified backed up the victim’s claims, Russell said.
Russell said the victim told him more than once to stop. “She told him, ‘If you stop now, I’ll act as if this never happened,’ ” Russell said
The woman said that, Russell said, because she did not want the situation to escalate and did not want Wang to hurt her.
“Weilang Wang is a manipulator,” Russell said. “He manipulated (the victim), he followed her around, he bought her ... sleeping pills, he told her she shouldn’t go in the study room.”
Russell said when the victim threatened to call police, he took his phone, typed “911” on the screen and told her, “Go ahead. Call them.”
“When she said she was going to the police, he manipulated the situation,” Russell said. “He said, ‘I’ll go, I’ll do the talking. I’ll get on the phone.’ ”
“Don’t let your verdict be his ultimate manipulation,” she told the jury which begins deliberating Wednesday.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.