By Jackie Snyder and Lauren King
May 14, 2015, marked the third day of the Lang Her trial. The victim in this case, who is referred to as only YX, took the witness stand. She was accompanied by a victim advocate, who sat by her side while she told her story regarding the alleged sexual assault that took place in the early morning of July 10, 2012.
YX, a UCD student majoring in Asian Studies, explained that she met the defendant through an association she was once active in, the UCD Hmong Student Union. YX stated that members of the Hmong association would often join together and throw parties, which was exactly what took place on July 9, 2012.
YX stated that on the night of July 9, 2012, her sister dropped her off at the defendant’s apartment where a party was being held. YX was familiar with the apartment and its occupants, as she had spent time there prior. Once at the party she met up with her friend and they began, along with several others, participating in several drinking games.
YX estimated that she consumed five to ten shots of hard alcohol, and indulged in a few mixed drinks. She became severely intoxicated and passed out on a couch located in the residence. YX then testified that her friend, as well as the defendant, transferred her to an upstairs bedroom belonging to the defendant and his roommate.
YX was then placed on the defendant’s roommates’ bed. The friend of YX stayed with her until the party came to an end. When the friend asked her if she wanted to leave, YX told her she wanted to stay and sleep. YX testified that she had slept at the apartment at least once before and she felt comfortable staying the night.
After falling asleep, YX testified she awoke to a sharp pain in her vaginal region. She then felt the sensation of cloth brushing her forehead (which she later stated she believed was the defendant’s shirt).
YX claimed that she felt frozen and her legs felt heavy. She remained silent and in shock. Moments later, she felt her shorts being pulled up. The defendant than walked to the bedroom door and turned off the light before getting in to his bed. YX testified she did not recognize the individual who sexually assaulted her as the defendant until he glanced at his cell phone.
She explained that the light from the phone illuminated his face and she immediately identified him. When she felt the defendant was asleep she went to the bathroom to call a friend but her cell phone battery died. Unsure of how to get home, YX made her way downstairs to the couch. YX stated she felt cold and, after searching for anything to keep her warm, she came across a pair of pajamas which she put on before lying down.
In the morning, the defendant woke her and asked if she wanted to leave. YX stated that the defendant then drove her to her apartment to pick up her backpack and then dropped her off at school. YX claimed she never confronted the defendant because she was afraid he may harm her. Once at school, YX broke down and admitted to her professor that she had been sexually assaulted. The professor then contacted a counselor.
At the urging of her sister, YX made the decision to report the rape to the police. In addition she reported the incident to UCD’s Student Judicial Affairs. Only after she reported the incident was she contacted via text by the defendant, who begged her not to let the incident “define” him.
Court was then dismissed for the afternoon lunch break. The jury was asked to return at 1:00pm for the continued testimony of YX.
The trial of Mr. Lang Her resumed on the afternoon of May 15 at the Yolo County Superior Courthouse. Several rows of the courthouse gallery were filled with Hmong observers. Mr. Her has been charged with the alleged sexual assault of friend and fellow U.C. Davis student, “YX.” Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor called three witnesses to the stand on behalf of the prosecution—YX, Sheri Rickman Patrick, NP, and Sergeant Ariel Pineda.
The alleged victim, YX, was the first to take the stand, resuming her testimony from the morning. A victim advocate sat beside her as she recounted the events of July 9, 2012, in explicit detail. YX testified that she was one hundred percent certain that she did not give Mr. Her consent to insert his genitals into her person. YX had consumed too much alcohol and was passed out in the bed of Mr. Her’s roommate. A sharp pain inside her genital area caused the alleged victim to regain consciousness. She soon realized that a man was on top of her and that he was penetrating her.
Defense counsel, Mr. Christopher J. Carlos, insisted upon another side of the story during cross-examination. He asked, “…and then you kissed Lang, correct? Then, you started fooling around, correct?” This style of questioning continued, despite objections from Ms. Zambor and YX’s denial of the proposed course of events. YX testified that she never kissed or fooled around with Mr. Her and that the intercourse was not consensual.
Mr. Carlos then asked YX about several details that he believed caused her to lack credibility. It later became known that YX had a tampon inside her genital area at the same time of the alleged assault. Mr. Carlos asked the alleged victim why she did not disclose that information to law enforcement during the initial investigation.
YX explained that she did not mention the tampon because she was embarrassed and was unaware that it was an important detail. She also testified that she never told law enforcement that she “went to the bars” on the evening of July 9, but stated that she “went out and had drinks.” She meant that she went to a friend’s house to drink. According to the witness, she had been a heavy drinker until about a month prior to the alleged sexual assault.
The next witness was Ms. Sheri Rickman Patrick. Ms. Patrick is a nurse practitioner and, in 2012, she was a member of the Bridging Evidence Assessment & Resources (BEAR) Center. The nurse practitioner was offered as an expert in forensic sexual assault examinations before the court. In the past twenty years, Ms. Patrick has conducted approximately three hundred sexual assault examinations and around two thousand pelvic examinations in total.
On July 11, 2012, at approximately 9:25pm, Ms. Patrick performed a sexual assault examination on YX at the BEAR clinic. Ms. Patrick collected urine and blood samples, took a patient history, asked routine questions, collected swabs for the assault kit, and performed full body and genital examinations.
YX informed Ms. Patrick that she had suffered a lapse of memory and consciousness during the alleged assault and that she vomited afterward. The alleged victim experienced bleeding from the assault and complained of non-consensual vaginal penetration. YX also answered that she had not had consensual sexual intercourse in the five days prior to the examination.
YX recognized Mr. Lang Her as her assailant. She knew him from the U.C. Davis Hmong Student Union (HSU). YX told Ms. Patrick that she had been drinking with friends and was put to bed after becoming extremely intoxicated. The next thing she knew, Mr. Her was on top of her.
No injury was found to the vaginal area, however, damage was found within the alleged victim’s anus. Through the use of an anoscope, Ms. Patrick discovered petechiae on the interior of the anus. Petechiae are small, red bruises that are typically created through trauma. This finding, according to Ms. Patrick, is consistent with penetrating anal trauma. Despite the fact that YX did not complain of anal penetration, the nurse practitioner asserted that these injuries could not come from anything else. All examinations were photo and peer reviewed by the entire BEAR team.
According to Ms. Patrick, it is not uncommon to see no injury to the vaginal area after a sexual assault and it is completely possible to have intercourse with a tampon inside the area. This is possible due to the elasticity of the vagina.
The final witness of the afternoon was Sergeant Ariel Pineda of the Davis Police Department. In 2012, Mr. Pineda was a detective. The former detective received YX’s case on July 12, 2012, and began a follow-up investigation of the case after reviewing the steps that previous law enforcement officers had performed.
On July 17, 2012, Mr. Pineda met with YX in person and took her statement. A U.C. Davis assault advocate was present with the alleged victim. This statement was recorded. On July 18, 2012, the former detective asked YX to make a pretext phone call. In this call (from her own cellphone), the alleged victim was to initiate conversation with the suspect in regard to what happened the evening of the alleged sexual assault. YX was willing to comply with the request, however, was unable to go through with it due to emotional distress. Mr. Pineda described YX as shaky, crying and in distress.
On July 24, YX’s assault kit was sent out for further testing and on July 26, YX went through with the pretext phone call and it was recorded by Mr. Pineda. The recording was played in open court for the jury and was approximately twenty minutes in length.
During the phone call, YX repeatedly confronted Mr. Her about the evening of the alleged sexual assault and told him, “I know what you did to me. I know what you did when I was passed out.” She continually asked that he tell her the truth and asked him why he did what he did. “I never thought that you would do that to me. You were my friend. Why did you do that to me, Lang?”
Mr. Her never explicitly denied that he assaulted YX. “I don’t know what you want me to say. I was as drunk as you were that night, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t do that…If I did, I wouldn’t know why. Who did you tell that I did this? Are you spreading lies? How do you know it wasn’t a dream?” Throughout the recording, Mr. Her appeared visibly uncomfortable. Several times he drank water in an agitated manner and the remainder of the time his eyes were cast downward.
Court was adjourned for the day and the trial was set to resume at 8:30am on May 15, 2015.