Former UI Student, Chinese National, Sentenced to up to 17 Years in Prison
By Vanessa Miller, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa - A former University of Iowa student accused of posing as a prospective tenant, locking a woman in her apartment and sexually assaulting could spend up to 17 years in prison.
Peng Tang, 22, was sentenced Monday to up to 17 years in prison, although he will be eligible for parole sooner. Tang originally was charged with first-degree kidnapping and faced a life term in prison, but in February he pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of felony sexual assault in the third degree and felony extortion.
Tang also was convicted of tampering with a witness. He must serve at least seven years of his sentence before he's eligible for parole, according to Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness.
After his release, Tang will have to register as a sex offender, and he will be on a form of supervised parole for the rest of his life.
He also will be handed over to immigration authorities and could be deported to his home nation of China. If he's deported to China, Lyness said, it will be up to Chinese authorities to take over his lifetime supervised parole.
During Monday's sentencing hearing, neither the victim nor friends and supporters of Tang were present. But Lyness read a letter from the victim that talked about how her life has changed since the incident.
"I couldn't forget how he was trying to handcuff me and how he stuffed my mouth with a towel," Lyness read from the victim's letter. "I couldn't sleep for a long time and for the first couple of weeks I always had nightmares."
She said in the letter that she didn't go to class for weeks because "so many Chinese students started to talk about this crime," according to the letter.
The woman said that in China, "We have a one child policy, and I am the only child in my family.
"My parents put a lot of effort and hope on me," she wrote. "They chose the University of Iowa for me because we thought Iowa would be a peaceful place for studying and living."
She said they couldn't believe what happened, and her mom cried all day and couldn't eat, the woman wrote in the letter.
The victim said that Tang "transmitted an entire distorted story" on Chinese websites.
"A lot of Chinese students believed that and started abusing me on Chinese Twitter and Facebook and even posted my photo online," she wrote. "My study was significantly impacted."
In China, she wrote, most women don't to go authorities with reports of sexual abuse. But, she said, she wants to keep this from happening to other students by informing them of their rights.
"And I do think the defendant deserves (to spend) his whole life in prison due to his insulting behavior to a woman, to his compatriot," she wrote.
Tang spoke on his own behalf during the hearing. He stressed that his guilty plea was an "Alford plea," meaning that while he agreed to the plea deal – to avoid life in prison – he's not admitting guilt.
"I accept the plea, but I didn't commit the crime," Tang said through a translator. "I didn't want this to threaten the rest of my life."
Tang said that if he had really committed the crime, the victim wouldn't have agreed to his making an Alford plea. He also said he couldn't have posted anything online while in jail, although authorities have accused Tang of conspiring with friends outside jail to reach out to the victim and ask her to change her story.
"Had I done this, people would criticize me and say, 'I am the bad guy,'" Tang said through the translator. "They wouldn't criticize her."
Tang was arrested in April 2012 after he allegedly forced a woman to perform sexual acts with him when she was showing Tang her apartment as a possible sublet. Police said Tang locked the woman in a room with him, put a towel in her mouth and tried to tie her hands behind her back.
Police also said Tang took nude photos of the woman, threatened her with a knife, and threatened to post the photos online if she talked to police.