Student Regent Under Investigation [Updated: Feb. 16]
On Nov. 4, 2010, UC Student Regent Jesse Cheng was arrested for sexual battery, according to the Irvine Police Department’s adult arrest roster for the month of November. The victim, a UCLA graduate student who has asked to be named as “Laya,” reported the attack to the police a few weeks after the incident.
According to the arrest roster, Cheng was arrested on the afternoon of Nov. 4 at 4771 Campus Dr. for sexual battery. IPD’s daily log for the arrest confirms that the incident was reported on Oct. 26 and Cheng was arrested and booked the following week in Irvine. However, he is not currently facing criminal charges.
Cheng, a fifth-year Asian American studies major at UC Irvine, is the current UC Student Regent and represents over 200,000 students at the 10 UC campuses throughout California. Here at UCI, Cheng has been actively involved in ASUCI, the Student Fee Advisory Committee and the Asian Pacific Student Association.
Cheng declined to comment on the record.
According to Laya’s accounts, Cheng attempted to rape her in his off-campus apartment on Oct. 3 after she said no to his advances. Laya reported the incident to IPD at the end of October and then to UCI’s Office of Student Conduct in November after Cheng’s arrest.
Dr. Mandy Mount, director of UCI Campus Assault Resources and Education (CARE), stated that most cases of sexual violence are rarely reported to authorities, but acknowledged that UCI was “proactive and responsive in these cases.”
In a series of emails over the course of October, which were disclosed to the New University and also given to the police and to Student Conduct, Cheng repeatedly apologized to Laya for sexually assaulting her.
In December, Laya was told by Detective Tom Goodbrand of IPD that the Orange County District Attorney’s office had decided not to press charges.
IPD confirms that the case was sent to the DA’s office in November but, according to Spokesperson Farrah Emami at the DA’s office, they have no record of the case under Cheng’s name at the time.
Update | Feb. 16, 2011, 4:15 p.m. The Bay Citizen reported earlier this afternoon that the Orange County District Attorney’s office chose not to file charges due to insufficient evidence. In a phone interview this afternoon, OCDA’s Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder confirmed that the case had been received and rejected.
“The case was received by our office, a deputy DA received 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. The deputy on this case was not aware of any position that Cheng held, nor would it have made a difference.”
To this date, Student Conduct is still investigating.
Despite Laya’s initial hesitation to report the incident, she has decided to come forth and speak up. “I hesitated to talk to the New U for a long time because 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,” she said. “I don’t want to let him silence me anymore.”
Edgar Dormitorio, director of Student Conduct, had no comment about the investigation, but cited the Family Educational Right and Privacy Act instead, which Student Conduct follows regarding investigation inquiries.