Judge allows statements by accused in UMass rape case
NORTHAMPTON — A judge has ruled that statements made by a suspect in a sexual assault case at the University of Massachusetts last year were voluntary and can be used against him at trial.
Hampshire Superior Court Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder ruled last month that Weilang Wang, 19, gave his statements voluntarily and, despite some difficulty with English, his command of the language is “good enough” to have understood the questions posed to him by police officers the night of the alleged assault.
Wang, a Chinese national whose first language is Mandarin, was arrested in connection with an alleged sexual assault at UMass on Feb. 19, 2013.
Wang, no longer a UMass student, pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and three counts of indecent assault and battery in connection with the incident. It is Gazette policy not to name victims or alleged victims of sexual assaults.
Wang’s attorney, John Connor of Greenfield, filed a motion in Hampshire Superior Court to have statements Wang made suppressed because he was not provided a Mandarin interpreter the night of his arrest — although the alleged victim was given that service.
“Much of the statement are phrases, terms and words that are suggested,” by police and “some of those words and phrases are absolutely crucial to the question of whether Wang’s purported actions constitute a crime,” the motion read.
In his seven-page decision dated March 21, Kinder said he was not persuaded to keep Wang’s statements from being used during a trial.
Kinder pointed out that Wang himself contacted police to report his conduct, telling a dispatcher he had initiated unwanted sexual contact with the alleged victim.
Kinder listened to a recording of that call, and took note that Wang communicated clearly in English and responded to the dispatcher’s questions.
Wang also told officers that he understood English, was read his Miranda rights and given a card to read with those rights explicitly spelled out, which he said he understood.
Kinder ruled that Wang was responsive and cooperative during his interview with police, communicated effectively and corrected interviewers several times when they misinterpreted his answers.
“While English is not Wang’s native language and he may be unfamiliar with criminal procedure in the United States, his English is good enough,” Kinder wrote. He pointed out that Wang graduated from an English-speaking high school with a reported 4.0 GPA and was accepted at UMass.
“Although he stumbles over some words and speaks haltingly at times, he is generally able to speak English in a narrative style,” Kinder wrote.
According to court files, the alleged victim said she and Wang had been socializing for about a month before the alleged assault. However, she told Wang she had no romantic interest in him because she already had a boyfriend.
About 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19, 2013, the two were studying in his room when the alleged victim became tired and Wang offered to let her nap in his bed.
The woman said after about 30 minutes, Wang climbed into bed with her, began kissing her, removed her pants and assaulted her, according to court records.
The woman told Wang she would contact police if he continued the assault, and he allegedly replied, “I’ll go to the police department with you,” according to court files.
Wang called the police himself and told them he wanted to speak with an officer because he “attempted to rape someone,” according to court records.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.