SINGAPORE: A teenager who has been in and out of remand after being hauled to court for charges like trespassing into a zoo enclosure and killing a frog pleaded guilty on Thursday (Nov 25).
Ralph Wee Yi Kai, 19, admitted to eight assorted charges mostly of mischief. These are for incidents including jumping into the rhino enclosure at the Singapore Zoo and doing a backflip for a TikTok video, killing a frog with a ball on a foosball table and smoking "weed" or cannabis in his bedroom.
Another six charges will be considered in sentencing.
The prosecutor pushed for a reformative training suitability report and "strongly" objected to a probation suitability report, saying probation is unsuitable as Wee is "beyond the control of his parents".
The defence asked for a probation suitability report on top of the reformative training suitability report. Lawyer Shashi Nathan from Withers KhattarWong pointed out that Wee was going through "a severe emotional crisis" after a break-up with his girlfriend, who filmed the rhino incident.
He also said the case has drawn a "huge amount of publicity" that has affected not only Wee but his family, with people purportedly causing problems after his home address was published.
Wee pleaded guilty from his place in remand via video link. The court heard that Wee, a home-schooled student, had gone to a friend's home in Sixth Crescent on Oct 9, 2020.
He was "going through some difficulties" and wanted to speak to his friend about his problems. The conversation led to him being "increasingly emotional".
After leaving his friend's house in the wee hours, he kicked and damaged an information panel at a bus stop, causing damages of about S$900 that the Land Transport Authority had to pay.
He also hit the side mirrors of a Mercedes Benz car parked in that area, with the owner having to foot a bill of about S$2,800 in repairs.
A passing taxi driver saw Wee standing in the middle of the road holding a beer bottle and called the police.
THE RHINO INCIDENT
On Dec 17, 2020, Wee went to the zoo with his then-girlfriend, who is 18 now. He had seen a viral video of a man riding on a giraffe and decided to jump into the rhino enclosure at the Singapore Zoo when he saw that there was a low fence.
He thought he could jump in easily and post a video that would similarly go viral. His girlfriend filmed him doing a backflip in the enclosure, and she later uploaded it to her private Snapchat account.
Wee uploaded the clip to his public TikTok account, and it went viral, garnering 55,000 views by the time the zoo caught wind of the incident and called the police.
The zoo sought police assistance due to the dangerous nature of the act, and for fear that the viral spread of the video would lead to others following suit.
Wee and his then-girlfriend later took down their videos, but Wee reuploaded it the next day. When asked why he did this, he said he had made it private so that only his friends could view it, and removed it again when told to do so.
Wee later posted a link on his Instagram profile that led to an account named @rhinoralph. The account had a post advertising the sale of shirts and hoodies with a rhino on it. He said he did not create the site and removed the link from his Instagram biography.
On Dec 24, 2020, Wee went to a friend's house in Sentosa Cove for a Christmas Eve gathering. He brought along two packets containing 17 frogs as a Christmas prank for another guest.
While playing foosball, he placed a frog on the table and directed a ball at it. The frog was injured and died shortly after. One of Wee's friends filmed the incident and posted it on social media.
Wee cut up the dead frog and threw it into a nearby canal, said the prosecutor.
Wee was charged in court for the above offences in July this year. On Aug 6 this year, he was arrested by the police at his home on suspicion of drug offences.
FRESH OFFENCES WHILE OUT ON COURT BAIL
His urine samples were found to contain a cannabinol derivative, and Wee admitted consuming "weed" alone two days before in his bedroom.
On Sep 14 this year, the police arrested Wee at his ward in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for failing to attend court. They found electronic cigarette pods among his belongings, which he admitted owning.
He had been placed under compulsory supervision from Dec 16, 2020, but failed to report for his urine tests on four occasions.
On Oct 28 this year, an employee at a company providing electronic monitoring services to the prisons and courts filed a police report over Wee's damaged e-tag.
Wee was out on court bail at the time, but had to adhere to a curfew and other bail conditions including wearing an e-tag.
In the wee hours of Oct 26 this year, he had an argument with his father. He was unhappy that his father was reminding him to sleep early, as he had to report to the Central Narcotics Bureau that morning.
Wee used a pair of scissors to cut his e-tag and left his home, cycling to a friend's home. When his father realised Wee had left the house, he called the police for help as he could not find his son.
The e-tag was badly tampered with and not in usable condition. It costs about S$100.
PROSECUTION OBJECTS STRONGLY TO PROBATION REPORT
Deputy Public Prosecutor Melissa Lee urged the court to call for a reformative training suitability report, and strongly objected to the calling of a similar report for probation.
She said that there is a need for deterrence in this case despite Wee's age.
"He has demonstrated a blatant disregard for rules," she said. He has also reoffended while on bail on at least two occasions, showing his "proclivity to crime", his disregard for the law and lack of remorse.
Wee has also committed a relatively large number of offences in a short period of time, and while the crimes are not "the most heinous", they involve damage to property and danger to himself, she said.
Ms Lee flagged the need to quell the "disquiet and unease engendered from his actions" and pointed to the need for a structured environment provided for in a reformative training centre.
She added that Wee "has a tendency to abuse drugs and alcohol", which causes him to "act aggressively" towards his parents. He was admitted to IMH when he "posed a risk to his parents".
"Simply put, he is beyond the control of his parents, which renders probation unsuitable," said Ms Lee.
Defence lawyer Mr Nathan asked for a probation suitability report on top of the reformative training report.
He said the case is "unfortunate" and "has garnered a huge amount of publicity, some of it even unnecessary".
CASE HAS AFFECTED HIM AND FAMILY: DEFENCE
"This has affected not just Ralph, but also his family members. At the last mention, there was even a revelation of the home address in the press, and that caused problems. People came and gave the family a lot of problems," said Mr Nathan.
"While Ralph understands that what he did was wrong, he never expected it to come to this."
He added that his client "comes from a good family" who are "able to look after him" and make sure he gets the right sort of supervision.
At the time of the offences, Wee was going through "a severe emotional crisis". Breaking up with his girlfriend caused a spiral, and "a lot of his behaviour emanated from that breakup", said the lawyer.
"I have to admit, of course, the rhino incident - he was with the girlfriend, the girlfriend was the one who took the video," he added.
In response, the prosecutor asserted again that probation "is not realistic" for Wee, judging from his repeated offending and "the way he has conducted himself in court so far".
An arrest warrant was issued for Wee at a court mention earlier this month, after he was unable to wake up for it.
The judge called for both a probation suitability report and a reformative training suitability report and adjourned sentencing to December.