Student Regent Jesse Cheng has decided to speak on the record in the wake of last week’s New University article, “Student Regent Under Investigation,” in which allegations of sexual assault were brought forth to the public.
Amidst the Nov. 4 arrest, the rumors and any speculation, Cheng maintains his innocence and renounces any notions of stepping down from his role as Student Regent.
“I currently don’t have any plans to step down, especially because I would never step down as an admission of guilt,” Cheng said, “because I’m not guilty.”
Though Cheng originally declined to comment on the record in order to “defend the privacy and interests of all the students involved,” he is now speaking up.
“[This issue] has become a public thing, and it has become a very serious issue,” Cheng said. “It’s come to the point where I’ve had to tell my side of the story and clear my name.”
The Orange County district attorney’s office has also provided additional clarification on the case – information that was provided to the New University last week.
OCDA Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder said that the case was rejected on Dec. 1, 2010 due to an insufficiency of evidence.
“A deputy DA reviewed the case, and she concluded that she could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Schroeder said. “It was submitted to our office for misdemeanor sexual battery. We’re not saying it didn’t happen, we’re just saying that we cannot file a case unless we can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. And in this incident we could not.”
Schroeder provided three reasons as factors for the case being rejected: the length of time it took to report the incident (approximately three weeks), the fact that the two involved parties had a prior relationship and the fact that the two continued to communicate after the alleged incident.
Schroeder also dismissed any notions that Cheng’s position with the UC had any effect on the proceedings.
“The deputy on this case was not aware of any position that Cheng held, nor would it have made a difference,” Schroeder said.
In response to the three e-mails Cheng sent to Laya, the alleged victim, in which he admitted the sexual assault, Cheng says that the police and DA had access to them and still chose not to proceed with criminal charges.
Although Cheng admits he wrote the e-mails, he explains that he did it because Laya had asked him to.
“She was calling me 50 times a day for two hours on the phone a day,” Cheng said. “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.”
In the e-mails, Cheng apologized and acknowledged the crime. “I’m sorry for sexually assaulting you,” he wrote in an e-mail dated Oct. 19. “I am a horrible person for what I did for [sic] you, I tried to rape you, and I thank you everyday for not letting me do that to you.”
Cheng says now that he knows it was a mistake. “I was trying to say whatever I could to get her to a point where she would stop calling and I could slowly regain my life.”
As of Feb. 20, UCI’s Office of Student Conduct investigation is still ongoing. Cheng said he had no information about when a decision would be made.
“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.”