Xuesong “Gary” Yang, who once worked as a recruiter of foreign students for the University of Illinois Springfield, has quietly pleaded guilty to raping a 17-year-old Chinese student.
The guilty plea came yesterday in a proceeding before Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Leslie Graves. In addition to pleading guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse, Yang pleaded guilty to obstructing justice, a charge that came after he was captured on videotape in a police interview room scratching his chest in an attempt to remove marks from his chest that the victim told police that she had left.
Yang entered an open plea, meaning that there is no plea bargain involved. And so it will be up to Graves to decide his punishment at a sentencing hearing set for Aug. 8. In the meantime, Graves yesterday ordered Yang to register as a sex offender for life. The judge denied his request to meet with a UIS student for “mitigation purposes,” according to the court docket, but the docket isn’t clear on whether Yang asked to meet with his victim. Yang remains free on $500,000 bond.
While held in open court, the hearing was not docketed prior to being held, and so there was no way for the public to know about it in advance, although the victim and police officers who investigated the rape reportedly were in attendance. Neither Graves nor Sangamon County Circuit Clerk Paul Palazzolo, who keeps court records, nor Sangamon County state’s attorney John Milhiser, who was present when Yang pleaded guilty, could immediately be reached to determine why the hearing did not appear on the public docket, which is supposed to include the times and dates of scheduled hearings.
In addition to yesterday's hearing, the victim, who looks years younger than 17, also attended a May 15 pretrial proceeding, when a trial date of June 12 was set. During that proceeding, Yang sat at the back of the courtroom, in a corner, his face buried in papers until he was called to appear before the judge. His victim sat on the other side of the courtroom, looking drawn and clutching hands with a fellow UIS student.
According to police reports, Yang plied the girl with wine before raping her in his downtown Springfield office on her 17th birthday the day after she arrived in the United States from China (“Springfield businessman charged with raping UIS student,” Jan. 20, 2017.”) One week later, the girl reported that Yang again raped her in his office. The second time, the victim told a fellow student in her dorm about what had happened and authorities were alerted.
Yang had enormous power on campus, according to police reports, telling students from China that he could change grades and send them home (“Accused UIS rapist had power,” Jan. 26, 2017). Students told Springfield police that Yang, who was hired by UIS to recruit students from China in 2013, had victimized other students, but no other charges have been filed. Students also told police that payments as high as $48,000 “Chinese currency” had been made to allow attendance at UIS, prompting an investigation into potential trafficking of students that involved federal authorities. Last fall, UIS police told federal authorities that they had uncovered no evidence of trafficking ("UIS police find no trafficking," Feb. 23, 2017).
Under a series of annual contracts, Yang was hired at the rate of $30,000 per year as a student adviser who recruited students from China. The students would typically study English on campus until they became proficient enough to enroll as full-fledged undergraduates. Yang first raped the student one day before his third contract expired; the second rape occurred less than a week after Yang’s contract expired.
Yang once ran restaurants in Springfield, including Ginger Asian Bistro on the west side, which closed several years ago.
Contact Bruce Rushton at firstname.lastname@example.org.