Duanying “Chance” Chen, the 20-year-old man who allegedly strangled his girlfriend and severely abused a six-month-old puppy last May, was held to answer for a separate charge of witness dissuasion on Thursday. Last August, Chen — a Chinese citizen who had studied at Santa Barbara City College — pleaded not guilty to charges of felony animal cruelty, domestic abuse, and violating an order not to contact his ex-girlfriend.
Police say Chen seriously beat a miniature pinscher one day last May, burning it with a utility lighter. When his girlfriend returned home, she found the dog unable to walk, hiding underneath a table. She brought the dog to an area veterinarian, who called the police after observing injuries on the puppy consistent with torture — broken bones, burn marks, and wounds on its rectum and genitals. The dog was later euthanized. During a follow-up police interview, Chen’s then-girlfriend, who is also from China, disclosed that Chen had strangled her to the point that she nearly lost consciousness. Both international students, the couple had lived together on Monterey Street.
On Thursday, prosecuting attorney Kevin Weichbrod contended that information in phone calls Chen made to his ex-girlfriend from County Jail indicated that Chen asked her to drop the charges, tell a different story, and destroy evidence. Because the conversations were in Mandarin Chinese, the calls were sent to an interpreter to be translated. Santa Barbara Police Sergeant Charles Katsapis testified that during his investigation he found the recorded calls to be concerning. The translation is not perfect, but Katsapis read statements from the transcript in the courtroom: “Just say you lied about it,” “You have to go and make a change and see if there is any evidence favorable to me,” and “If we can’t win the case, I don’t want to spend the money in fighting the case.”
Chen’s ex-girlfriend was also called to the stand. She confirmed that the voices on the recording were hers and Chen’s. Representing Chen is Pasadena-based defense attorney Darren Cornforth — Chen’s third attorney in this case — who asked Judge Clifford Anderson to reduce the witness dissuasion charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. Anderson declined, calling it premature to do so. Chen, who has been out on bail since about a week after the incident, is scheduled to return to court on April 14. If convicted, he could face a sentence of up to six years and 10 months in prison.