3 enter not-guilty pleas in student-torture case
Updated: 2015-06-22 13:06
By NIU YUE in New York(chinadaily.com.cn)
Three Chinese students accused of abducting and torturing a fellow Chinese student earlier this month have pleaded not guilty.
Zhang Xinlei, Zhai Yunyao and Yan Yuhan, three of six defendants who are being charged as adults, appeared in Superior Court East Los Angeles County Courthouse in Pomona on June 18.
The three were all born in 1996 and are students at Oxford School, a private middle school for Grades 7-12 in Rowland Heights, California.
"Our campus is located in a gated compound in Rowland Heights, one of Southern California's safest communities," the school’s website says. "It is designed to encourage a sense of security that allows the students to grow, explore, and reach their highest potential."
The school received a prestigious Siemens Westinghouse Preparing Science and Technology Leaders for the Future Award for the 2005-2006 school year.
Rowland Heights is an affluent, unincorporated community of Los Angeles County with an Asian population of close to 60 percent.
Three other alleged accomplices in the case are under 18; four are still at large.
The alleged victim, a young woman whose name China Daily is withholding, was lured by a primary-school peer to discuss private matters on March 30, according to her statement.
She was then reportedly forced into a car and taken to Rowland Heights Park, a county park, where the defendants began beating her and stripping her, she said.
The alleged torture included burning her with a lighted cigarettes, cutting her hair and forcing her to the ground to eat sand. The statement said the alleged assailants took photos and videos of the assault.
The woman said that the torture lasted five hours, and left her seriously injured.
According to an indictment released on June 18, the defendants have been charged with kidnapping, torture and assault, totaling 12 counts, which is double the number in a July 3 indictment.
Deng Hong, the lawyer for Zhang, said that if the case goes to trial, the defendants face long terms on the felony charges of kidnapping and torture.
The defendants also face cancellation of their US visas, with study uncompleted, and repatriation to China after serving any prison sentences.
Evan Phillip Freed, lawyer for Zhai, and Rayford Fountain, the lawyer for Yang, were granted court approval to have psychiatric evaluations made of their clients.
Freed told Xinhua that a psychological evaluation will help assess a defendant's mental state during the crime.
Fountain said Yang is not mature enough to realize the consequences of her action.
The trial is expected to last three to six months.
Hong Xiao in New York contributed to this story.