Mount Holyoke professor accused of assault denied bail

  • STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 2/19/2020 8:42:04 PM

GREENFIELD — Judge Mark D. Mason on Wednesday morning withheld the right to bail of a Mount Holyoke College professor accused of using a rock, fire poker and garden shears to attack a colleague in the alleged victim’s home late last year.

Rie Hachiyanagi, 48, of South Hadley, pleaded not guilty in Franklin County Superior Court last week to three counts of armed assault to murder a person age 60 or older, three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a person age 60 or older, and single counts of mayhem, home invasion and entering a dwelling at night for a felony.

According to a report from Massachusetts State Trooper Geraldine L. Bresnahan, the alleged victim told police Hachiyanagi arrived at her Leverett home unannounced late at night on Dec. 23 and said she “wanted to talk about her feelings.” After being invited inside, Hachiyanagi allegedly attacked the victim, striking her with multiple implements including “fists, rocks, garden clippers and a fire poker.” All objects were recovered by investigators.

The alleged victim, who was present with supporters in court Wednesday, told authorities she believed Hachiyanagi was going to kill her. According to the report, when the victim asked why Hachiyanagi was attacking her, the assailant allegedly said “that she loved her for many years and (she) should have known.” Bresnahan’s report also states the victim convinced Hachiyanagi to stop the attack and call 911 by “playing along” and lying about having reciprocating feelings.

Hachiyanagi’s attorney, Thomas Kokonowski, argued at Wednesday’s dangerousness hearing that there were discrepancies in the alleged victim’s statements to police and in the grand jury minutes. He said Hachiyanagi owns a house, and conditions could be put in place to ensure the public’s safety if she were to be released on bail. Kokonowski also said his client has no prior criminal record or history of violent behavior.

The defense attorney said Hachiyanagi, who appeared in court with her hands cuffed behind her back, must be presumed innocent until proven guilty and he finds it difficult to believe his client would have had a mindset of “I love you, therefore, I’m going to kill you.”

“There’s a lot that doesn’t make sense from the very beginning,” he told the judge.

Kokonowski also said an “hourslong struggle” was described and he feels it is odd that the alleged victim, reportedly a trained martial artist, “couldn’t land a blow of consequence” in self-defense.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Thomas said Hachiyanagi is responsible for “a brutal and cunning attack” in which she coaxed a colleague to let her into her home late at night under the guise of needing to talk during a difficult time in her life. Thomas said his career in criminal justice has taught him that people sometimes harm others, seemingly with no provocation.

“(Hachiyanagi) was at her breaking point, and she broke,” Thomas said.

He told Mason he finds it highly unlikely that a third party carried out the attack and Hachiyanagi happened to stroll past the victim’s house around midnight to find her friend bloodied and beaten.

“That makes no sense,” Thomas said, adding that the defendant reportedly has an hourlong gap in memory from the night of the incident. He also mentioned the photographs of the victim’s injuries are “worth 1,000 words” and implored Mason to hold Hachiyanagi without the right to bail because she will likely be in a worsened mental state since she has been suspended without pay from her job.

Hachiyanagi is an art professor at Mount Holyoke College, where she has worked since 2004, according to her college web page, which states her specialization is installation, performance and paper making. She is on unpaid leave during these legal proceedings and has been barred from campus.

Earlier in the dangerousness hearing, Kokonowski called to the stand Lee Bowie, a former philosophy professor and dean at Mount Holyoke College. In answering questions from Kokonowski, Bowie explained he worked at the institution from 1975 to his retirement in 2015. He explained he was dean when Hachiyanagi arrived in 2004.

Bowie said Hachiyanagi was eventually promoted to chair of the college’s studio art department, and her duties included supervising curriculum and an advisors program. He also said he had dinner with Hachiyanagi in the company of others a couple of times and he once brought her to a Boston Red Sox game when he had an extra ticket. Bowie described Hachiyanagi as “an avid sports fan.”

During cross-examination from Thomas, Bowie mentioned he visited Hachiyanagi in prison a couple of weeks ago, but until then had not seen her in about two years. Thomas asked him if it is common for a college to issue a no-trespass order against a professor and Bowie said it is “not unheard of, but it is unusual.” Bowie said he had never issued such an order while he was dean.

Thomas had also told Mason it was difficult for the victim to be in the same room as the defendant.

“She still bears the physical scars and emotional trauma from this attack,” he said.

Hachiyanagi is due back in court on April 22 for a pretrial hearing at 2 p.m.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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