Mt. Holyoke professor accused of armed assault seeks dismissal of 2 charges

  • Defendant Rie Hachiyanagi during a remote hearing, held via a Zoom video conference, regarding a motion to dismiss. Hachiyanagi is accused of severely beating a fellow Mount Holyoke College professor in the alleged victim’s home late last year. SCREENSHOT

  • Defendant Rie Hachiyanagi is shown during a remote hearing, held Wednesday via a Zoom video conference, on a motion to dismiss two of the nine charges against her. SCREENSHOT

Staff Writer
Published: 11/18/2020 6:47:20 PM

GREENFIELD — Judge Francis Flannery said Wednesday he will consider the defense’s motion to dismiss two of the nine charges against a Mount Holyoke College professor accused of using a rock, fire poker and pruning shears to attack a colleague in the alleged victim’s Leverett home late last year.

Attorney Thomas Kokonowski, representing Rie Hachiyanagi via a Zoom video conference, appealed to Flannery to dismiss the single count of home invasion and one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a person age 60 or older.

Hachiyanagi, 49, of South Hadley, pleaded not guilty in Franklin County Superior Court in February 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.

Kokonowski, of Adams & Kokonowski Criminal Defense, cast doubt on whether his client was armed with a dangerous weapon at the moment of entry, which is required to satisfy the home invasion charge. He also argued the alleged victim told police she never saw the rock Hachiyanagi allegedly armed herself with prior to being invited into the victim’s home.

According to a report from Massachusetts State Trooper Geraldine L. Bresnahan, the alleged victim told police Hachiyanagi arrived at her 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 told authorities she believed Hachiyanagi was going to kill her. The report states that when the victim asked Hachiyanagi why she was attacking her, she allegedly replied, “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.

But Kokonowski argued it is “at best mere suspicion” that Hachiyanagi armed herself with a rock prior to being invited inside. He told Flannery the victim told police she could not see anything in Hachiyanagi’s hand when Hachiyanagi struck her in the back of the head and continued to beat her. Kokonowski said a “well-worded question” by the commonwealth “introduces the concept of a rock.”

“The commonwealth tries to place the rock ... into Professor Hachiyanagi’s hand,” he said, arguing the victim told police she clearly saw Hachiyanagi use pruning shears and a fire poker to attack her. He said a challenge of all facts presented by the commonwealth will come at a later date.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Thomas, who is prosecuting the case, said the victim was struck when she turned away from the threshold after Hachiyanagi accepted the invitation to enter the home. He said the victim is a geology professor and knows how a rock feels. Thomas said the victim reported the object “did not yield as a fist would yield to flesh.”

“This attack takes place over the course of several hours, with multiple weapons,” Thomas said, adding that the victim suffered blunt force trauma, including a broken orbital bone, one of the bones that surrounds the eye.

“She might not be able to see the rock, but that’s by design,” Thomas said, elaborating that Hachiyanagi concealed the rock when she entered the home.

Hachiyanagi is on unpaid leave from her positions as art professor at Mount Holyoke College, where she has worked since 2004, according to her Mount Holyoke College web page, which states her specialization is installation, performance and paper making. Currently, she is being held without the right to bail, and has been ordered not to set foot on the college campus.

Flannery scheduled a hearing on the defense motion for 11:15 a.m. on Dec. 3.


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