Tech difficulties postpone Mount Holyoke prof’s motion hearing

  • Defendant Rie Hachiyanagi during a remote Franklin County Superior Court hearing regarding a motion to dismiss held in November. Hachiyanagi is accused of severely beating a colleague in the alleged victim’s Leverett home nearly a year ago. SCREENSHOT

Staff Writer
Published: 12/3/2020 4:39:29 PM
Modified: 12/3/2020 4:39:18 PM

GREENFIELD — Technical difficulties in Franklin County Superior Court postponed Thursday’s motion hearing in the case of Rie Hachiyanagi, the Mount Holyoke College professor accused of using a fire poker, rock and pruning shears to attack a colleague in the alleged victim’s Leverett home nearly a year ago.

The hearing, held via the online conferencing platform Zoom, was scheduled to begin at 11:15 a.m. on Thursday. But First Assistant Clerk Magistrate Benjamin Simanski started the conference on his cellphone at roughly 11:20 a.m. to say the courtroom’s internet had failed and to apologize to the legal counsel, journalists and members of the public listening in.

Simanski briefly left the conference to try to remedy the situation, but returned to say the internet was still not working in the courtroom, and every other courtroom in the Franklin County Justice Center was taken. He then asked the attorneys from both sides of the case when they were next available.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Thomas, who is prosecuting the case for the state, and attorney Thomas Kokonowski, representing Hachiyanagi, agreed on another Zoom conference at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Simanski thanked the attorneys for their patience and repeatedly apologized for the inconvenience.

“Thanks for having a good phone,” Kokonowski said to a round of light laughter.

The hearing, to be presided over by Judge Francis Flannery, pertains to the defense’s motion to be granted access to ambulance and EMT records as well as the state’s motion for a court order to summons employment records.

Hachiyanagi, 49, of South Hadley, pleaded not guilty in Franklin County Superior Court in February to three counts of armed assault to murder a person age 60 or older, three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a person age 60 or older, and single counts of mayhem, home invasion and entering a dwelling at night for a felony.

According to a report from Massachusetts State Trooper Geraldine Bresnahan, the alleged victim told police Hachiyanagi arrived at her Leverett home unannounced late at night on Dec. 23, 2019, saying she “wanted to talk about her feelings.” After being invited inside, Hachiyanagi allegedly attacked the victim, striking her with multiple implements including “fists, rocks, garden clippers and a fire poker.” Investigators recovered all objects.

The alleged victim told authorities she believed Hachiyanagi was going to kill her. The police report states that when the victim asked Hachiyanagi why she was attacking her, she said it was because “she loved her for many years and (she) should have known.”

Bresnahan’s report also states the victim lied about having reciprocating feelings and convinced Hachiyanagi to stop the attack and call 911.

Hachiyanagi is an art professor at Mount Holyoke College, where she has worked since 2004, according to her Mount Holyoke College web page, which states her specialization is installation, performance and paper making. Currently, she is being held without the right to bail.

She is on unpaid leave during these legal proceedings and has been ordered not to step foot on the Mount Holyoke College campus.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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