Judge sentences Mount Holyoke prof to 10 to 12 years

  • Rie Hachiyanagi is escorted into Franklin County Superior Court on Wednesday for sentencing. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Rie Hachiyanagi looks to her lawyer after being sentenced in Franklin County Superior Court on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Rie Hachiyanagi listens to Judge Francis Flannery during her sentencing in Franklin County Superior Court on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/20/2021 8:17:19 PM

GREENFIELD — The Mount Holyoke College professor who admitted to using a fire poker, rock and pruning shears to attack a colleague in the victim’s Leverett home was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 to 12 years behind bars.

Rie Hachiyanagi, 50, of South Hadley, pleaded 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. There was an armed assault charge and an assault and battery charge related to each weapon Hachiyanagi used in the attack.

Judge Francis Flannery took a handful of days to mull over the sentencing for Hachiyanagi, who will receive 20 months’ credit for time already served since her arrest following the attack in December 2019. The defendant was sentenced to 10 to 12 years for each armed assault to murder charge and seven to nine years for each assault and battery charge. All these sentences will be served concurrently.

Once she is released, Hachiyanagi will be on probation for three years, with conditions that she submit to a GPS device and stay away from the victim and Mount Holyoke College.

Hachiyanagi showed up at friend Lauret Savoy’s home unannounced late on Dec. 23, 2019, and lurked in the shadows until Savoy saw something and called out to determine who was there. Hachiyanagi revealed herself and said she wanted to talk about her feelings. She then viciously beat the victim in a bloody, four-hour attack while telling Savoy that she had loved her for years and that Savoy should have known that.

Savoy suffered bone breaks and a fracture in her face, several stab and puncture wounds, and significant blood loss. Hachiyanagi also straddled Savoy on the floor and punched her repeatedly. Savoy stopped the attack and convinced Hachiyanagi to call 911 by lying about having reciprocating feelings for her.

Flannery began Wednesday’s sentencing in the Franklin County Justice Center by thanking those involved for their indulgence while he considered the parties’ recommendations and arguments.

“I needed some time to think about this,” he said. “This case is troubling for me.”

The judge referred to Hachiyanagi — a Mount Holyoke College art professor specializing in installation, performance and papermaking — as a talented artist with no prior criminal record, but said the legal process yielded no adequate explanation for what she did to Savoy.

“This is one of the most horrific set of facts I have ever heard,” Flannery said.

The judge then commended the diligence of defense attorney Thomas Kokonowski, of Adams & Kokonowski Criminal Defense, before expressing his admiration for Savoy, who he said had the courage, the cunning, and the presence of mind to keep herself alive during a brutal attack.

“That’s remarkable,” he said.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Thomas, who prosecuted the case, told the Greenfield Recorder he wanted to recognize Savoy’s courage and grace.

“I also want to commend the Massachusetts State Police and Leverett Police for their hard work and follow-through,” he said. “Attorney Kokonowski fought hard and fair throughout the lifespan of this case. I was and am honored to represent the people of the commonwealth.”

Savoy, the David B. Truman professor of environmental studies and geology at Mount Holyoke College, told the Recorder that Thomas guided her with kindness through every facet of the case.

“I also give heartfelt thanks to the Massachusetts State Police, Leverett law enforcement, and dedicated medical providers who cared for me in the emergency room, hospital, and through the intensive period of physical and emotional recovery,” she said. “The loving care of my friends and family, as well as the support of Mount Holyoke College administration and my colleagues, have also been great comforts to me. I am grateful to be alive.”

Kokonowski told the Recorder the COVID-19 pandemic complicated matters, as he could not meet with Hachiyanagi in person and privately for 18 months, though the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction was accommodating to him and his client. He also said the Superior Court clerk’s office was extremely helpful through the process.

“Anyone who says our legal system is ‘broken’ maybe has not seen a criminal case handled by a good prosecutor, good judge and decent defense attorney. That’s what this case had, in my opinion,” he said in a statement. “Am I happy my client is incarcerated? Never. Never have been. Never will be. I respect every judge’s decision, however.

“I am glad to have been able to represent Rie in this case,” Kokonowski continued. “I have learned a lot from her during these two years. I have learned a lot about her from her numerous supporters, referenced by the judge. I know that she will continue to teach in one form or another, wherever she is. She is an incredible teacher and person.”

Kokonowski also said he cannot judge anyone because he is not perfect.

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

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