Student Regent Faces Ongoing Investigation

Photo: Jesse Cheng
Jesse Cheng

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UC Student Regent and UC Irvine student Jesse Cheng was arrested by Irvine police Nov. 4 on suspicion of sexual battery, but charges against Cheng have not been filed by the Orange County District Attorney.

A woman - who said she wished to only be identified as "Laya" in order to protect her identity as a victim of an alleged sex crime - said Cheng assaulted her on Oct. 3 of last year. She reported the incident on Oct. 26 and Cheng was arrested nine days later on suspicion of misdemeanor sexual battery.

The case was forwarded to the Orange County District Attorney's office by the Irvine police, according to Lieutenant Julia Engen. However, the office rejected the case, according to Susan Schroeder, the district attorney's chief of staff.

"The accuser and the suspect had a long-term relationship prior to the event and further contact after the event," she said. "The incident was not reported for three weeks, there was no corroborating evidence and we cannot prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt."

But Laya said Cheng had already admitted to the assault in e-mail correspondences after the incident.

"I didn't do it," Cheng said. "All the e-mails, evidence, everything was given to the police and the DA. They didn't find evidence to charge me with."

According to both Laya and Cheng, the e-mails were given to the Irvine police, the district attorney and UC Irvine's campus student conduct investigators.

"I can't believe he is denying that it happened," Laya said.

According to Cheng, Laya is a long-time acquaintance. He said that they had been in a relationship for almost a year and that the breakup had been "very messy."

Laya said she did not come forward sooner due to pressure from Cheng's friends.

"I was really reluctant to even speak to (UC Irvine's student newspaper) because he had friends who tried to convince me not to talk about it," she said.

Cheng said he was not aware of any of his friends intimidating her.

Cheng is still subject to an ongoing student conduct investigation, he said, but he is not sure when a decision will be reached. He added that student conduct officials have interviewed both him and the woman bringing the charges.

Officials from the UC Irvine Office of Student Conduct declined to comment on the investigation, citing the privacy of the individuals concerned.

The pending student conduct investigation has no bearing on Cheng's status as student regent, according to UC spokesperson Steve Montiel.

"This is a student matter that is being handled by the campus in accord with standard processes covered by student privacy laws," he said in an e-mail. "While there is no indication that any of this has anything to do with Jesse Cheng's position as a Regent, this matter also is being reviewed by UC's Senior Vice President–Chief Compliance and Audit Officer."

UC Regents bylaws state that a student must be in "good standing" in the university community in order to serve as Student Regent.

According to UC Irvine's policy on sexual assault, which governs accusations of sexual battery, the consequences for being convicted can range from a censure to dismissal from the university.


Jordan Bach-Lombardo is the lead higher education reporter. Contact him at [email protected]

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