SMU molestation trial: Defence claims woman is lying and giving 'completely illogical' account of events

SMU molestation trial: Defence claims woman is lying and giving 'completely illogical' account of events

Lee Yan Ru
Lee Yan Ru at the State Courts on Sep 7, 2020. (Photo: TODAY/Raj Nadarajan)

SINGAPORE: The defence for a Singapore Management University (SMU) student accused of molesting a woman during an overnight study session claimed on Wednesday (Sep 9) that the woman was lying and giving a "completely illogical" account of events. 

"What you have been telling us, every one of us in this courtroom in the last few days, are really lies and half-truths," said lawyer Thong Chee Kun of Rajah & Tann.

The 22-year-old woman, whose identity is protected by gag order, disagreed. She was testifying as a prosecution witness against 24-year-old Lee Yan Ru for one count of molestation.

Lee is contesting one charge of using criminal force by rubbing his privates on her chest in a study room at the university on Jan 8 last year.

The woman had told the court that she got to know Lee on Instagram and met him for two study sessions, despite initially declining to go out with him as she had a boyfriend.

During the second study session between 12.30am and 6.30am at a study room in SMU, Lee allegedly molested and groped her several times.

She had explained that she was a "non-verbal" person who did not want to be "outright" and instead indicated her discomfort at Lee's actions in other ways.  

She also said that she had hoped he would stop making advances on her, adding that she did not leave as she did not want to leave a bad impression and there was "no mode of transport".

READ: Woman testifies in trial of SMU student accused of molesting her, saying she felt 'weird and awkward'

Tackling her account of events, Mr Thong said: "Let me put it to you that what happened in reality is that you yourself were also engaged in playful physical banter with Yan Ru throughout the night at SMU."

The woman disagreed.

"(This) is really the only possible explanation, because you could have easily retaliated and gone home at any time if Yan Ru had really offended you by any inappropriate contact," continued the lawyer.

"I disagree. I believe I retaliated by signalling to him many times, by pushing him and telling him to stop and go away," the woman answered.

DEFENCE POSES MULTIPLE QUESTIONS TO WOMAN

Mr Thong questioned the woman on several points she made during her testimony.

He asked why she had not taken a Grab vehicle home since she had taken one there. To this, the woman answered: "Being a student, you want to save money. I already Grabbed there, I didn't want to Grab back."

He asked her also why she had not gone home instead of lying down to nap at around 6am, when public transport was available.

The woman said she was "really tired", adding that she thought it was nowhere near 6am as she had last seen a dark sky while returning from a second smoke break at the lift lobby.

She said she was woken from her nap by a weight on her abdomen and saw Lee straddling her chest area.

She said she saw only his left hand on the table and did not see his private parts, but "sensed" them and deduced that he was masturbating.

After this, she said she felt "degraded" and "like a slut". Questioning the woman on her use of the term, Mr Thong asked why she felt "like a slut".

READ: Woman says she felt angry to be 'disrespected and degraded' by SMU student who allegedly molested her in classroom

"Because it felt like I was being used," she answered.

"My understanding of the word 'slut' is that it's a derogatory term, describing a loose woman who has casual sexual relations, or one who gives consent easily. Is that your understanding of the word?" asked Mr Thong.

"No," the woman said, explaining that her understanding of the term "slut" was "a lady who gets used by men".

"Is it possible that you felt this way, like a slut, because you felt that you had just participated in sexual activity with Yan Ru, despite having a boyfriend at the time?" asked Mr Thong.

"No. I (maintain) what I said. I felt like a slut because I was used," said the woman.

LAWYER GIVES LEE'S ACCOUNT OF WHAT HAPPENED

Mr Thong then gave Lee's account of what happened that night. According to Lee, he met the woman at a cafe on Jan 7, 2019 for the first time.

He poked her a few times around her stomach or rib area playfully, until she pushed his hand "gently away". He asked if she was "saliva-conscious" before drinking from her straw to try her drink, but the woman said she could not remember this.

According to Lee, the pair continued texting after this and before meeting for a second time in the early hours of Jan 8, 2019.

He told her there would "not be a lot of people" at SMU when they went there, and later placed both feet on her thighs in the study room.

"With his bare feet on your thighs, he recalled that his feet were near your inner thighs and crotch area," said Mr Thong, to which the woman disagreed.

"Yan Ru remembers there was a playful exchange during which he playfully flicked his feet up and down your lap," he added. The woman again disagreed to this happening.

"On occasions, when his feet slipped off your lap, you would pick up his feet and place them back on your lap," said the lawyer. The woman disagreed. She had testified that she had been uncomfortable when he placed his foot on her thigh and pushed it off repeatedly.

Another difference in their accounts of what happened that night was over the Netflix movie they watched. 

The woman had said that she wanted to watch it alone as she prefers to do so, but Lee remembered that they discussed which show to watch and did so together.

While they watched the show under the table, Lee placed his arm around the woman's back to hold her arm and she did not move away, alleged the lawyer. The woman disagreed.

When Lee tried to tickle her various times, she responded a few times by "lightly flicking him on his face", claimed Mr Thong. The woman disagreed.

Mr Thong claimed that when Lee groped the woman's chest, she "giggled". She disagreed that this happened.

In another incident, when Lee tried to kiss her, she turned her head away and he kissed her cheek, to which she said "ew" in a "playful tone", claimed the lawyer.

The woman again disagreed.

According to Lee's account, there was another incident where he sat on the woman's legs and tried to unhook her bra, but the woman responded that she was wearing a sports bra with no hook and disagreed that this happened.

THE TELLONYM ACCOUNT

The lawyer also showed the woman several documents of text from a social media platform called Tellonym, where a person poses a question and another person answers them.

The screenshots were from the woman's account, and Mr Thong flagged a few question-and-answer sets.

One of the questions, posed by an anonymous person, read: "Are you a good liar". The woman replied "yes". Asked about this in court, the woman agreed that she had said so.

She acknowledged also that this answer was in relation to another follow-up question by an anonymous person, who said: "Probably why you lied about the police case and alleged molest."

In response, the woman replied on Tellonym: "You got the balls, you come and say it to my face."

The Tellonym messages have not yet been added into evidence.

The prosecutor did not have any questions for the woman in re-examination and closed his case on Wednesday. The accused will take the stand to open the defence's case in the next tranche of the trial.

Parties will meet in October to decide on the next trial dates.

If convicted of molesting the woman, Lee can be jailed for up to two years, fined, caned, or given any combination of these penalties.

CNA has contacted SMU for more information.

Source: CNA/ll(gs)

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