The Orange Country District Attorney decided not to charge UC Irvine senior Jesse Cheng with sexual battery. Cheng is the current UC Student Regent, the only student who is allowed a vote on the board.
A 22-year-old UCLA Law School student identified as “Laya” accused Cheng of sexually assaulting her on Oct. 3, 2010 and reported the crime on Oct. 26. Cheng was arrested on Nov. 4 based on Laya’s accusations.
The District Attorney’s office decided not to press criminal charges against Cheng in December, citing lack of evidence as the reason for dropping the case.
“[W]e cannot file a case unless we can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Orange County District Attorney Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder told New University. “And in this incident, we could not. The deputy on this case was not aware of any position that Cheng held, nor would it have made a difference.”
Laya presented e-mail evidence from Cheng in which he apologized for allegedly committing the crime.
“I’m sorry for sexually assaulting you,” wrote Cheng on Oct. 19. “I am a horrible person for what I did for [sic] you. I tried to rape you, and I thank you every day for not letting me do that to you.”
The incident came to light after Laya approached New University with the situation.
“I was scared Jesse would retaliate and with someone in his position, he has people around him who can and who have gone out of their way to silence me and convince me not to report the assault,” Laya said in the Feb. 16 issue of New University.
Cheng spoke on the record for the first time this week, after months of silence. Due to an ongoing investigation, he finally clarified the matter.
“I am innocent of all accusations made,” Cheng said in a statement. These accusations have been extremely painful … My former partner and I were in a committed relationship for almost a year. Near the end of the year, it was clear that the relationship was not working out, and I initiated the break up.”
Cheng explained why he responded to Laya’s e-mail.
“She was calling me 50 times a day for two hours on the phone a day,” Cheng said in a statement. “To be honest, my life was cracking because of these phone calls. They were extremely disruptive and I was extremely stressed out. So I lied in the e-mails to do whatever I could to move forward with my life.”
Cheng also addressed the issue on a larger scale.
“I recognize the privileges that I have as a man, and I recognize that gender violence and violence against women is a serious issue,” Cheng said. “But I’m innocent. I’ve been working on those issues my entire college career. I would never engage in behavior that would compromise those values,” Cheng said.
New University received criticism from students for using condemnatory language against Cheng while only citing the anonymous source, Laya.
Students expressed doubts about the accuracy of New University’s Feb. 16 “Student Regent Under Investigation” article.
“Personally to me, NewU has often inaccurately reported certain events (to some extent), especially this event,” one comment read.
Some also resented the article’s insinuation that Cheng was not charged due to his status.
According to New University, UCI Student Conduct office is still investigating the case.
Editors at the New University could not be reached for comment.