Judge mulling motions to dismiss, grant bail in Mount Holyoke prof’s case

  • Mount Holyoke College professor Rie Hachiyanagi sits next to legal counsel Thomas Kokonowski and Jesse Adams during a motion hearing Monday morning. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • Assistant District Attorney Matthew Thomas argues against bail for defendant Rie Hachiyanagi, who is accused of physically assaulting a colleague in 2019, in Franklin County Superior Court on Monday morning. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer
Published: 8/31/2021 1:48:58 PM

GREENFIELD — A Franklin County Superior Court judge is mulling over the defense’s motion to dismiss the charges as well as a bail reconsideration in the case of Rie Hachiyanagi, the Mount Holyoke College professor accused of using a fire poker, a rock and a pruning shears to attack a female colleague in the alleged victim’s Leverett home 20 months ago.

Judge John Agostini heard from defense attorney Thomas Kokonowski and Assistant District Attorney Matthew Thomas on Monday morning and said he would soon render a decision.

Kokonowski argued for the case to be dismissed because a glove found at the alleged crime scene contains only a male’s DNA and the victim told medical professionals in the ambulance she had been knocked unconscious and did not know who attacked her. Kokonowski also said he is still awaiting receipt of a piece of evidence the prosecution has billed as “a smoking gun of sorts.”

He also asked Agostini to consider bail for Hachiyanagi, 50, who has been held since December 2019, having on three occasions been deemed too dangerous to release. A Superior Court clerk said the decision could take a few days to a week.

Agostini, Kokonowski and Thomas, who is prosecuting the case for the state, agreed to have the trial begin Oct. 18. The lawyers expect the trial to last eight to 10 days, consisting of a mix of half and full days, as the court will have other commitments. An evidentiary hearing is set for Oct. 4.

Hachiyanagi, of South Hadley, pleaded not guilty in Franklin County Superior Court in February 2020 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 Bresnahan, the alleged victim told police Hachiyanagi arrived at her Leverett home unannounced, saying she “wanted to talk about her feelings.” After being invited inside, Hachiyanagi allegedly assaulted the victim, attacking her with multiple implements including “fists, rocks, garden clippers and a fire poker.” All objects were reportedly recovered by investigators.

The alleged victim told authorities she believed Hachiyanagi was going to kill her. The police report states that when the victim asked Hachiyanagi why she was attacking her, she said it was because “she loved her for many years and (she) should have known.” Bresnahan’s report also states the victim potentially saved her life by lying about having reciprocating feelings and persuading Hachiyanagi to stop the attack and dial 911.

Kokonowski said the prosecution is arguing his client’s mindset late at night on Dec. 23, 2019, was simply: “I love you, therefore, I must kill you.”

Five months after the alleged assault, Kokonowski said, the victim called State Police after she reportedly found four bloody gloves wrapped in a pair of shorts in a dresser 10 to 12 feet from where the attack is said to have taken place. Kokonowski said there are two unknown female DNA samples in those gloves. He said a separate glove — which he insinuated was the only one recovered by police from the scene — was sent to a lab for analysis and contains only a male’s DNA.

“That sure as heck interests us,” Kokonowski said, adding that it could belong to the alleged victim’s housemate, who he said recorded the victim’s statement.

The defense attorney also said the alleged victim reported having her eyes swollen shut due to the attack and not knowing who assaulted her.

Thomas delivered a rebuttal to Kokonowski’s comments. He said the glove in question was one of several found at the scene that night. He said the victim keeps gloves in a basket near the front door to handle kindling and conduct other outdoor chores. He alleged Hachiyanagi put the bloody gloves in the dresser in an attempt to hide them before police arrived.

Thomas also said the victim’s housemate recorded the victim’s statement because he was unaware the police had already done so. He said there is no appreciable difference between what the victim told authorities and what she relayed to first responders. Thomas then said the victim originally withheld specific information because her eyes were swollen shut and she could not see if Hachiyanagi was present, and she wanted to ensure Hachiyanagi was not within earshot before speaking freely.

“She had to bargain for her life with Hachiyanagi,” Thomas said, adding that the attack lasted four hours.

Thomas said the defense is attempting to convince the court a third party beat the victim “to within an inch of her life” after she invited Hachiyanagi to her home but before she arrived.

“That can’t be right,” he said.

Before Agostini said he would take all the arguments under advisement, Kokonowski stood up to clarify he meant the single glove in question was the only one the state cared enough to send to a lab for analysis.

Hachiyanagi is originally from Sapporo, Japan, and is an art professor at Mount Holyoke College, where she has worked since 2004, according to her employer’s web page, which states her specialization is installation, performance and papermaking. She is now on unpaid leave and in custody, and has been ordered not to step foot on the Mount Holyoke College campus.


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