By: Hilary Hosia
After a three day preliminary ‘rumble in the court’ hearing, High Court Judge James Plasman found good cause to move forward with the government’s case against Huang Peishu for allegedly raping a 14-year old girl in his Utrikan bedroom on March 14, 2012.
With the new case taking root, Plasman revoked Huang’s bail and remanded him to jail last week for violating bail release terms in a 2010 case in which he is charged with attempted murder.
The preliminary hearing was anything but ordinary. For one, it lasted three days. Normally, preliminary hearings last less than a day. In addition to that, the number of witnesses used in the case and the complexity of the cross-examinations by defense lawyer John Masek and prosecutor Jack Jorbon mimicked an actual trial. Another factor was the intense gravity of verbal argument between the lawyers. Plasman repeatedly pulled the lawyers aside to admonish them for their conduct as each interrupted the other’s examination of the witnesses. They were like two wizards casting spells at each other trying to conjure the truth from the underage witnesses on the stand.
The fact of the matter remains: on March 14, 2012, five middle school students faced expulsion for consuming alcohol inside school premises. The alcohol, as testified by the defense and government witnesses, the victim, and the defendant, all came from Huang’s bedroom.
All five teenage girls took to the stand and were under oath as witnesses under court subpoena. Three testified for defendant Huang and one sided with the teenage victim.
All witnesses testified that the victim was alone with the defendant inside the bedroom behind a locked door. All witnesses also testified that the victim walked out of the bedroom several minutes later while holding a medium-sized bottle of vodka. They also said she was smiling and that she had money in her hand.
The only difference between the four testimonials is that the defense witnesses said they did not hear any sign of struggle or sounds coming from the defendant’s room while the victim was inside. They also said they saw no visible bruises on the victim’s wrist and neck when she stepped out of the room. They also said she did not show any signs of physcial pain. The girl who testified for the victim contradicted this testimony by saying the opposite.
Throughout the cross examination with his witnesses, Masek had the girls describe the defendant’s wall and the length from the door to where the girls claim they were standing when the victim was alone in the bedroom with the defendant.
“Your Honor, it was bright daylight,” Masek said. The witnesses said they did not hear any sign of struggle coming from the bedroom. “Why didn’t she scream out for help? Your Honor, she went in there with the intention of bumming my client. And by bum I mean she will do whatever she can to get what she wants.”
In a bold move, Masek called his client to the stand. A defendant is never required to testify in a case and frequently they do not take the witness stand in a criminal trial.
Huang said the victim went inside the room, locked the door behind her and smiled at him. “She approached me and started hugging and kissing me,” the defendant said.
“Your Honor my client was being led on,” Masek said, adding his client was scared because she was a minor. She took money that was on the table and when she left the room, his client said a bottle of vodka was missing, Masek said.
Jorbon attacked the defense team with a different scenario using the victim’s testimony and one witness as support.
The story painted by the victim and one of her teenage friends: All girls were inside the defendant’s bedroom watching an adult movie on the defendant’s laptop. “Huang told us he was going to show us a ‘Tom and Jerry’ movie,” the teenage witness said. But when the movie came on, it was not Tom and Jerry.
“What was playing that was not Tom and Jerry?” Jorbon asked the witness. “X-rated movie,” was the reply. “When you say ‘x-rated,’ what do you mean?” Jorbon asked the witness.
“Are we going to describe the movie?” Plasman interfered. “She already said x-rated,” he advised Jorbon.
“Your Honor, I am trying make sure when she says adult movie, we all know what that means,” Jorbon said. “Was there penis showing in the movie?”
“Objection your Honor!” roared Masek.
“Counsels approach,” Plasman said to the lawyers. The audience in the court looked at each other in excitement. “This is pretty interesting,” one audience member said to another.
Plasman allowed Jorbon to continue with his questions. The witness confirmed that the defendant was the one who turned the laptop on and willingly showed the girls the adult movie. The witness described the movie as gross. She said she couldn’t eat later on. She also said the defendant later told the girls to get out.
“As the girls were going out, what happened?” Jorbon asked the witness. “He grabbed the victim’s arm,” she said.
“And then what happened?” he asked. “He closed the door and locked it,” she replied.
“And when you say ‘he’ do you mean Huang?” “Yes,” she said. Is Huang in the room right now? The witness nodded her head and said yes.
“Can you please point out who Huang is,” Jorbon said.
From the witness stand, the Marshall Islands High School student pointed to the middle-aged man sitting between Attorney Masek and Attorney General Office translator Daniel Fu.
The witness also said the rest of the girls were aware of what was going on inside the room at the time, although the girls now deny knowing anything.
Masek fought back by asking the government’s witness a serious question. “Has anyone threatened you to testify the way they want or else physical harm will come to you?” “Yes,” she replied. “Who?” Masek asked. “The victim.”
“Can you tell the court what else she told you?” Masek said to the witness. “She said to go get money from Huang or else more harm will come to him,” the witness said.
“Your Honor the government’s witness admits she was advised to blackmail my client,” Masek said. Whatever happened in that bedroom was her intention, not my client’s, he said.
The defense team said the victim fabricated the rape story because she fears her mother.
The prosecution team claimed the teenage witnesses changed their story because the defendant bribed them with money.
Notes to readers:
1. Huang is currently in jail awaiting trail from a previous attempted murder case. His attorney said they will tackle the rape case after trial is over. “By that time [the victim] will show who she really is,” John Masek said. The victim appeared to be in the early stages of pregnancy.
2. The victim continues to attend school, even though she admits skipping school when she gets moody. She said she gets bullied in school because of what happened.
3. What victim and defendant claimed happened behind the locked door:
- He locked the door. Took me to the bed and sexually penetrated me. I took the money and vodka and went outside.
- She locked the door, smiling as she does it. Came to me and started kissing and hugging me. Her hand reached inside my pants and touched my penis. I got very excited. She led me to the bed to have sex with me. I was scared because she is a minor and my girlfriend is outside the room. On the bed, she smiled, took the money from the table and placed it inside her bra and left. We did not have sex. I later found out a bottle of vodka was missing from the room.
4. Defendant’s witness profile:
- Kathy: key witness. Ring leader. Defendant’s sister in-law. Not in school.
- Deborah: not in school
- Matilda: attends Life Skills Academy
5. Government’s witness:
- Kitana Tulensa: Daughter of land owner (Defendant lease from mother) High school freshman
- The victim. High school Freshman
6. The victim and Huang Pieshu How people describe them:
He is involved in an attempted murder case. RMI EPA shut down his taxi business for spilling oil on numerous occasions. The store remains in business. He is rumored to bribe high level police officers. He acquired Marshallese citizen by marrying a local. He is currently with a Chinese woman.
- The Victim:
She is involved in another case: Her step-father sexually assaulted her and is now in jail for domestic violence. Case is still pending. One of the defendant witness said other kids call her ‘cash power,’ meaning boys use her to relieve sexual urges.