Student sues Chinese billionaire for rape, says he went to her apartment and assaulted her despite her protests
A University of Minnesota student who claimed last August that she had been raped by Richard Liu, a Chinese billionaire who is the CEO of e-commerce retailer JD.com, has filed a civil lawsuit against him and his company. "Defendant Liu was physically larger in size and significantly stronger than the plaintiff and used his superior size and strength to subdue and rape her," it stated.
The lawsuit, filed at the Hennepin County Court, comes nearly four months after the office of the Hennepin County District Attorney declined to press criminal charges against him by citing "profound evidentiary problems which would have made it highly unlikely that any criminal charge could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt."
According to Reuters, it accused Liu and JD.com of a total of six counts of false imprisonment, civil assault, and battery, as well as sexual assault or battery and seeks damages of at least $50,000. It also identified the student for the first time as Liu Jingyao, a Chinese woman who is not related to the JD.com executive.
While naming JD.com as a defendant seems a bit over-the-top, the lawsuit claims the company is "vicariously liable" for Liu's behavior because his alleged actions happened while he was "seemingly" at work-related activities. It also stated that the assault and battery began in the presence of two JD.com employees, Vivian Yang Han, and Alice Zhang Yujia.
We previously reported that the alleged assault had taken place on August 30, when the 45-year-old billionaire was in Minneapolis attending a weeklong residency with the Carlson School of Management's doctor of business administration China program.
At the time, Jingyao had claimed that Liu forced himself upon her while she was eating dinner with him, with text messages she sent to one of her friends stating that he then dragged her into a vehicle and made advances on her despite her protests. Two of these texts read, "I begged him to stop but he didn't listen," and "I told him 'no' several times."
She also described to detectives how Liu followed her inside the apartment and began pulling off her clothes, and that despite escaping and managing to redress herself, he persisted, threw her on the bed, and then raped her.
"We were battling against each other on the bed and finally I escaped from him and went back to the living room and put the bra back on again," she told authorities. "Finally, he just threw me onto the bed. He was on me. He was heavy. I tried to push him away. But he was on top of me and then he raped me," adding, "He is going to exercise his power. You underestimate him."
Jingyao also reportedly texted friends immediately after the rape and talked to them about pressing charges. It was one of these friends, the same one who she said accompanied her that night and dropped her off at the apartment, who called 911 to report the incident.
Liu was arrested on August 31 in Minneapolis on suspicion of felony rape but was released within hours. His attorneys claimed he had been arrested on a false claim, though Liu's statement on Chinese social media regarding the incident did seem to suggest there was something off with the night. While he insisted he did not break any law, he said he felt "utter self-admonishment and regret" for the "enormous pain" his "actions on the day" had caused his family.
He returned to Beijing immediately after release, with his Minnesota-based lawyer Earl Gray stating that his client denied any wrongdoing and noting how the billionaire had been released without charges or bail.
While Jingyao continued to maintain that she had been raped, prosecutors came out this past December to announce that they had spent the past few months reviewing evidence and there was not enough to charge Liu.
A release by the prosecutor's office revealed that this evidence included conversations and messages in Mandarin, video from a body camera worn by officers that captured conversations between Liu and Jingyao inside her apartment, and crucially, video of portions of the conversation between the two of them after the woman asked to speak privately with Liu before he was transported back to his hotel.
The substance of those conversations, along with all of the other evidence including statements from the woman and others, as well as footage from multiple surveillance cameras, reportedly did not support criminal charges sought by the University of Minnesota student in this case.
A statement by Hennepin County attorney read, "As is the case in many sexual assault incidents, it was a complicated situation. It is also similar to other sexual assault cases with the suspect maintaining the sex was consensual. As we reviewed surveillance video, text messages, police body camera video, and witness statements, it became clear that we could not meet our burden of proof and, therefore, we could not bring charges."
Though it seemed at the time that Liu was in the clean, this civil lawsuit threatens to pull him back into the mire. But as expected, he will contest the charges fiercely, with a statement by his attorney stating that "based on the Hennepin County attorney’s declination to charge a case against our client and our belief in his innocence, we feel strongly that this suit is without merit and will vigorously defend against it."