By Monica Velez
The morning of February 11, 2016, started off with the testimony of a witness describing her night at a party in Davis, California, where an alleged rape occurred between two former UC Davis students. Lang Her is accused of multiple sexual assault charges that allegedly took place on July 9, 2012.
The female witness, who was at the party where the alleged crime occurred, talked about what happened. She described the drinking game they played called “Battle Shots,” a version of the known game “Battleship” that was turned into a drinking game, with participants taking a shot every time a ship was sunk.
“Battle Shots” was played girls against boys that night, with both the first witness and the alleged victim (Y.X.) testifying that they remembered the girls losing, which meant taking shots. The first witness and Y.X. both remembered that Y.X. would take shots for other people.
Y.X. said she would “take one for the team” to lessen the pressure on the other girls of drinking the shots consecutively. The first witness said that Y.X. looked like she was more comfortable taking shots and was acting normal, “to drinking standards,” laughing and acting friendly.
The deputy district attorney presented a photograph that showed the first witness, the defendant Mr. Her, and another friend who was at the scene in a three-way hug, with the defendant’s arms wrapped around both the witness and the other friend. The witness said that she felt uncomfortable and weird about the hug because she was not accustomed to touching people she did not know very well, but thought nothing of it and let it pass.
The witness said that at one point Y.X. disappeared upstairs, and that she did not see her again. The witness said she left the party around 1:00 a.m. with two other friends who were in attendance.
The People then called Y.X., the complaining witness and the alleged victim, to the stand. She is now 23 years old and a UC Davis graduate student in Asian American Studies.
Y.X. said that, prior to the alleged rape, she had seen Lang Her more than 20 times, often going to his apartment to “party.” She said she had slept over at Her’s apartment before, after nights of drinking with him, his housemates and other friends.
Y.X. testified that she had never hung out with the defendant alone, and never kissed, flirted or had a romantic relationship with him. The alleged victim said she had only hugged the defendant in greetings, and nothing inappropriate happened with him until July 9, 2012.
On July 9, Y.X. said she was feeling the effects of alcohol, having had some shots, a can of beer and mixed drinks the night of the incident. She had felt safe in the defendant’s apartment, revealing later to Christopher Carlos, the defense attorney, that she had been there more than 20 times.
That particular night, Y.X.’s sister dropped her off (her mother and another sister were in the car) at Her’s apartment. When Y.X. started, in her testimony, talking about the incident she sounded choked up, with tears emerging form her eyes. The defense asked her how she felt, and Y.X. responded that she felt overwhelmed, which resulted in Judge Paul Richardson suggesting a break.
After the short break, the defense attorney confirmed with Y.X. that she was not doing any illegal drugs prior to or after the incident.
Y.X. was feeling the effects from the alcohol approximately two hours into her arrival at the party. Y.X. said she had fallen asleep on a couch downstairs, and afterwards her good friend (at the time) and the defendant helped her upstairs to sleep.
Y.X. remembered that she needed help up the stairs – she could not hold her weight and was stumbling. She said her shoulder was around the defendant and her good friend was behind them. They took her to the defendant’s room to sleep, placing her on the defendant’s roommate’s bed.
The alleged victim’s good friend stayed with Y.X. while she vomited again (having thrown up a couple times downstairs), and eventually left. Y.X. was crying during this time, saying sometimes she gets emotional while drinking.
At the time, Y.X. was on her period, saying she had a tampon and panty liner on at the time. She was wearing jean shorts, a t-shirt, bra and underwear, all confirmed and shown during the trial.
The defendant said she woke up the night of July 9, 2012, because she felt a sharp pain in her vaginal area. She explained she felt that someone was on top of her, and she felt the pain of somebody penetrating her, along with not knowing what was exactly happening or who was doing it.
“Somebody was having sex with me without my consent,” said Y.X.
Y.X. started to cry and remembered feeling a t-shirt brushing her face and a lot of pressure on her body. She said she felt confused, shocked and scared, not knowing what to do.
Her arms could not move – she said they were above her head, with pressure and weight keeping them there, and she was not able to move her legs either. Her shorts and underwear were by her knees, her bra and shirt still on, but she said her tampon was still in.
Y.X. explained that she knew it was a penis inside her and not anything else, like a finger, because she has had sex before and knew what it felt like.
“Somebody was thrusting themselves inside of me,” said Y.X.
The duration of the alleged rape Y.X. could not pinpoint, saying to her it felt like a very long time. Y.X. said she tried to say something but couldn’t, and her effort to fight back did not work, as the weight on top of her prevented her from any movement.
When asked, she said she did not know if the defendant ejaculated, but she did feel him pulling and buckling up her shorts when he stopped.
Y.X. said she did not see the defendant’s face until he got up after putting on his shorts, cracked the door open, turned off the lights and turned on his cell phone. The alleged victim said through the cell phone light shining on his face she was able to see that it was Lang Her who had attacked her sexually.
“I felt very disgusted that somebody I knew would do this to me,” said Y.X.
The alleged victim said she was shaking and scared for her safety, not knowing what to do. She said she wanted to throw up and was thinking of ways to get out of the room and to a safe place. The defendant saw the alleged victim shaking and asked her if she was okay. Y.X. responded that she was cold, and Her then put a blanket on her.
Y.X. said she looked for her cell phone, walked to the hallway and then went in the bathroom, which was when she called and texted her good friend who had gone to the party with her. The alleged victim said she did not want to make a lot of noise because she was fearful Her would hear and maybe follow her.
Y.X. told her good friend in the texts that something had happened to her, and not to talk to Her because the defendant did not want Her to know she knew he raped her the night before. She said she was scared for her safety.
“I couldn’t put it into words for her (her good friend), what happened to me,” said Y.X.
At this point, Y.X. said she still felt drunk, and went downstairs with the help of the wall because she could not balance, to get sober. She looked in the refrigerator for either water or Gatorade to try and sober up, and then attempted to throw up again in the downstairs bathroom.
Y.X. said she did not look for any other roommates who lived in the apartment and stayed the rest of the night downstairs, falling asleep on the couch.
The defense grilled her on this detail, asking why she did not leave to get help, especially since there was a CVS store and a Safeway one to two minutes away from the apartment she was in.
The alleged victim stated that she was too scared to go anywhere, it was dark outside, she was still drunk and she was not sure if she knew how to get back to her apartment.
Y.X. said she woke up the next day to someone, the defendant, tapping her shoulder. He asked her if she needed a ride to school, to which the alleged victim agreed and left with him to go to her apartment to change and get her backpack.
“I thought it would be safer for me to act like nothing was wrong…so I could get out of there,” said Y.X.
Y.X. arrived at her 8:00 a.m. Asian American Studies class on time, and ended up telling her class and professor she was just raped. The professor took the defendant to talk to a counselor and then she went home. She eventually dropped out of classes for the summer, because she knew her mind and emotions wouldn’t be present for the classes.
The alleged victim did not call or do a rape kit until July 11, 2012, two days after the alleged assault, because she said she was scared to call the police, wondering what she would have to go through, what she could even say to people and whether anyone would believe her.
“It’s been very difficult to feel safe, I feel like I always have to look over my shoulder, I have nightmares and I suffer from sleep paralyses,” said Y.X.
The day Y.X. called the police she said she called her sister first, who lived in Sacramento, then met up with the police in the parking lot of her apartment because she did not want her housemates to know about the incident. She gave police the clothes she wore during the incident and went to get a rape kit done in Sacramento.
“I knew I had to speak up about this, if I didn’t report it I knew I wouldn’t be able to live with myself,” said Y.X. “…I don’t want to live my life in denial. I don’t want him (Her) to get away with what he did to me.”
Text messages, after the alleged incident, that the defendant sent Y.X., even though Y.X had filed a no-contact order through the university’s Student Judicial Affairs, were brought up in court.
“Please ‘Y.X.,’ I’m begging you,” said the text message Her sent Y.X. ”Don’t let this define me, I’ll do whatever you want.”
Y.X. said that she felt the defendant had multiple times to tell the truth and did not, and believed that the more the accusations caught up with him, the more desperately he tried to contact her.
The defendant’s parents went so far as to go to Y.X.’s parents’ house to try to convince her to drop the charges. They said that if Y.X. was not happy, they would allow her to marry Her, and, if she was still not happy with that, they would give her any amount of money she wanted.
The judge made it clear to the jury that these statements should not be taken as the truth, but are only presented to show the state of mind of the alleged victim. The alleged victim said she felt scared because the defendant’s parents now know and had been to where her parents lived.
“It was a way to silence me, by marrying me off, to pay me off,” said Y.X.
During the defense cross-examination, Y.X. seemed to be irritated by the interrogation of the defense regarding her credibility. The defense repeatedly asked Y.X. about statements she had made in prior interviews, either making sure she was telling the truth or trying to catch her in a lie.
Y.X. would take long pauses before answering the defense’s questions, asking often for a clarification in the questions.
“I’m feeling very frustrated right now,” said Y.X. “…[b]eing interrogated like this makes me feel frustrated and stressed.”
After the jury was dismissed, the defense attempted to call a mistrial due to the statements made about Her and his parents showing guilt by trying to persuade Y.X. to drop the charges.
The judge agreed with the prosecution’s argument, saying it was made clear to the court that the statement was not to provide truth, but to show the mental state of the defendant.
The defense attorney had one last dispute regarding a statement that would be argued as impeachment of the witness. Y.X. stated that, after the alleged rape, she stopped drinking, but the defense had photographs that proved she was drinking some time after the incident.
It was decided that, because the statement was not specific enough to the exact time Y.X. had stopped drinking, it could not be seen as impeachment. The judge ordered the photographs not to be brought into court until the evidence was flushed out, and until such time as they knew exactly what she meant by that statement.
The trial will resume regarding this motion and testimony on February 16, 2016.