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Westmoreland

Former medical student guilty of misdemeanor, acquitted of most serious sex charges

Rich Cholodofsky
| Wednesday, June 7, 2017, 8:12 p.m.

A former medical student from Northern California was acquitted Wednesday of the attempted sexual assault of a Seton Hill University coed nearly three years ago.

Westmoreland County jurors deliberated more than three hours before finding Jerry Chai not guilty of the most serious charges against him.

Chai, 27, of Union City, Calif., near San Francisco, was accused to trying to force himself on an 18-year-old student at the Greensburg college on Sept. 14, 2014.

The jury issued not guilty findings on felony counts of attempted involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and aggravated indecent assault as well as one misdemeanor charge of indecent assault.

Jurors convicted Chai on one misdemeanor offense of indecent assault, a charge that could result in him receiving a sentence of up to three months in jail, according to Assistant District Attorney Leo Ciaramitaro.

Chai will be permitted to remain free on bail until he is sentenced in about three months by Common Pleas Court Judge Chris Scherer.

During the two-day trial, his accuser claimed she was taken to Chai's off-campus apartment, where he attempted over her objections to engage in sexual activity.

The woman, who has since graduated, testified she was unable to leave Chai's apartment because she was on crutches and unfamiliar with the Greensburg area.

Chai, who at the time was a first-year medical student at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine at Seton Hill, testified Wednesday that he believed his accuser consented to sexual activity that included kissing and the rubbing of private parts but that he stopped when asked.

He told jurors the woman was originally the aggressor.

“She was really engaged. I thought it was going great. She was giving me flirty eyes,” Chai testified.

Both testified they met several days earlier at a picnic table on campus and after exchanging phone numbers they agreed to met again so she could conduct an interview for a school project.

After agreeing to go out for frozen yogurt, Chai said she consented to go to his apartment for cocktails. While there, they watched videos and engaged in sexually suggestive banter.

Then, in his bedroom, they began to kiss.

“I didn't do anything to stop her from leaving,” Chai testified. “She could have left if she wanted to, but I didn't think she wanted to leave.”

His accuser previously told jurors that she never wanted to engage in sexual activity and that she was shocked when Chai made advances.

The defense suggested throughout the trial that the woman fabricated the nature of the encounter as a means to win back her boyfriend, who had broken off their relationship a week earlier.

The woman denied those allegations. In his closing argument, Ciaramitaro told jurors that although the accuser agreed to go out with and then return to Chai's apartment, she never consented to sex.

“ ‘No' means ‘no,' ” Ciaramitaro said. “He had the power to control the situation.”

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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