Duanying “Chance” Chen, a 20-year-old Chinese foreign exchange student, pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony animal cruelty and domestic battery. Last year, authorities said Chen tortured his miniature pinscher so badly it had to be euthanized and that he also had strangled his girlfriend. He faces a maximum of six years and six months in prison. He will return to court for sentencing on June 30.
Late last week, Chen’s mother Hongling Hu told reporters at a press conference in Los Angeles that his sheltered upbringing, bad social skills, and ignorance of U.S. law is to blame for his crimes. In a letter, she asked Judge Brian Hill to consider how studying abroad was hard on Chen and that he and his girlfriend often dealt with problems inappropriately because their parents were far away.
Chen’s attorney told reporters Chen would not make a statement Tuesday, but he said the story was “big in the Chinese community.” The attorney went on to say that the Chinese community “applauded his action” of seeking counseling services and pleading guilty. He also noted his client was making progress toward rehabilitating himself before quickly leaving the courtroom with Chen and his mother.
Chen was arrested after police officers were tipped off by a veterinary hospital employee who noticed Chen’s dog had suspicious injuries, including broken bones, cuts and burns, and wounds on its genitals. Through a follow-up police investigation, Chen’s girlfriend told officers he had strangled her to the point she nearly lost consciousness in the residence they shared. Animal-welfare laws do not exist in China; efforts to introduce such measures have stalled.
Prosecutors also charged Chen with witness dissuasion after he called his girlfriend from jail and, speaking in Mandarin, demand that she drop the charges and get rid of evidence. He also pled guilty on that charge.