UCI's Ex Scandal

UC student regent Jesse Cheng fights off ex-girlfriend's attempted rape allegation—and draws stares around UCI

Jesse Cheng is used to being recognized as he walks between classes at UC Irvine. He is, after all, the University of California Governing Board's representative for 200,000 students at 10 UC campuses, But the stares the 22-year-old Asian studies major has been getting lately are different.

"There have been a number of people looking at me; it's very scary at times," he told the Weekly by phone from a quiet corner on campus last week. "Actually, I'm kind of scared shitless."

The funny looks began Feb. 15, when UCI's New University student newspaper reported Cheng had been arrested on suspicion of sexual battery—way back on Nov. 4, 2010. The incident that produced the arrest happened the previous Oct. 3 in Cheng's off-campus apartment near the university, and was reported to Irvine Police on Oct. 26. Shortly after the arrest, Irvine detectives forwarded the case as a misdemeanor sexual battery to the Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA), which declined to file charges.

Student Regent Jesse Cheng

Daniel A. Anderson/University Communications

Student Regent Jesse Cheng

Cheng claims he's innocent, that "a messy relationship" and "really bad breakup" are at the center of the allegations against him by a young woman he'd dated for a year. "Nothing of the sort happened," he says of the alleged rape attempt.

Susan Kang Schroeder, the OCDA chief of staff, said the case is not strong enough to win a conviction because Cheng and the woman had a prior relationship, she did not report the alleged crime for three weeks, and she saw him again after the incident.

"Based on all those facts, at this time there is not sufficient evidence to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt," Schroeder said. "Should at any point further evidence be submitted that can get this beyond a reasonable doubt, we are always willing to review the case for a misdemeanor sexual battery charge."

After Cheng's arrest, the woman also alerted UCI's Office of Student Conduct, which, other than indicating it is still investigating, has been tightlipped due to student and victim privacy laws. University of California's senior vice president-chief compliance and audit officer will review the campus investigation to ensure it is fair—but not whether the allegations against Cheng are true, UC President Mark Yudof's office announced last week.

With the misdemeanor criminal case dead—or at least in limbo pending more evidence—the woman identified by the New University as "Laya" opened up to the paper; the story ran under the dual byline of managing editor Traci Garling Lee and editor David Gao. "I hesitated to talk to the New U for a long time because I was scared Jesse would retaliate, and as 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 reportedly told the paper. "I don't want to let him silence me anymore."

The Weekly has been unable to reach Laya.

To claims the UC student regent wields such power, Cheng said, "Do you want to be super-real? Trust me, this post doesn't have power to do anything. . . . I can't even stop a fee increase from happening. . . . Politically, no one's protecting my ass. . . . Last year, people were graffiti-ing on my door over the fee increase. I couldn't even stop that. . . . I have no influence over that case; I do not even have enough power to defend my innocence."

New U reported that e-mails exist between Cheng and Laya that have him apologizing for attacking her.

Cheng explained these in a Feb. 21 statement he issued due to media reports about the incident. In it, he says he saw his "partner" of a year three times after they broke up: the first time as her date to a UCLA event; the second, the Oct. 3 dinner and movie at his apartment, during which they shared consensual kisses but, Cheng claims, no sex; and, finally, a meeting at her apartment in which, he claims, they "engaged in physical intimacy" that she "initiated."

He further states that a week after the dinner date, she called and accused him of sexually assaulting her and went on to phone him up to 50 times per day before he agreed to their last encounter at her apartment. This, Cheng claims, was followed by more calls and e-mails, some of which contained demands that he write her an apology using specific language. He says he finally gave in to end things once and for all. Cheng was arrested on campus shortly thereafter, taken to the Irvine Police station for questioning and, after explaining their relationship to investigators, released three hours later.

"I do not know why my former partner has chosen to make these accusations, or make them at this time," Cheng ends his statement. "I loved her very much, and I really wish for her the best in the future."

Four days before Cheng's statement, the Los Angeles-based nonprofit feminist-rights group Mariposa Center for Change issued its own. "We are concerned that there has been no response from the DA's office or no decision from the University of California, Irvine's Student Conduct Office," says Ivy Quicho, executive director. "These actions point to a lack of urgency to address the attack of a student, at best, and a blatant cover-up to protect a UC student regent, at worst." Laya is also quoted telling Mariposa, "I knew I had to say something; what if he did this to someone else? He has to be held accountable."

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15 comments
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mrtinez666
mrtinez666

She just sounds like a vindictive woman scorned. And he sounds like a dick head.

KL
KL

and what about her. If there is a break up why was she letting herself be strung along. The dude is a 22 year old guy/student.

In all out likelihood she is making these accusation out of feeling betrayed and has no basis in reality other then the idea that she would not have consented if he told her upfront that he wanted to string along the breakup.

Her language sounds indignant but the fact that she continued to see him (a man whom she had established a sexual relationship) after the breakup and the alleged attempted rape is far to convenient to suggest that she is making these accusations out of true good faith. To me I see a jilted ex who wants to get back at her ex by twisting a definition of something that is already hard to prove innocent since all it takes for sex to be rape is a Yes to just passive silence.

Regardless of what he did, if I am right about this woman, what she is doing in wrong, flat out wrong. She is not only attempting to take away mans freedom over a messy break up she is giving a bad name for all rape allegations.

If I'm wrong, well then what she is doing is right and I hope she can avoid being taken advantage of again.

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johnny b goode
johnny b goode

dude, if you had counter emails showing her demanding you write those apology emails confessing to a heinous crime yourself (that any sane person wouldn't write at all), why not release those? the excuse is just crap. if it was such a bad breakup, and you initiated it, why would you go along with her those 3 times? and if the kisses were consensual and all that, but you wanted the breakup, than you're a bastard for stringing her along. obviously it wasn't that bad of a break up if you wanted to see her and kiss her. sorry cheng, but your bullshit has got to stop

jme
jme

Man!! what a cocky ugly mother fucker!! I cant belive that any woman would even be alone with this annoying weirdo..unless he makes good chow mein..if not, the chick must be blind and in a wheelchair and he rolled her into his apartment.

 
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