The University of Minnesota student who alleged she was raped by Chinese billionaire Richard Liu last August said she would pursue a criminal case and tell the media unless she received money and an apology, according to details of her investigative file released Wednesday.
Hennepin County prosecutors declined to pursue charges against Liu, but police reports and witness interviews backed her allegation that she was forced into a chauffeur-driven SUV by Liu after a night of drinking and that Liu was “all over this girl,” according to the SUV driver.
Minneapolis police made public surveillance video, audio and hundreds of pages of documents, including an interview with Liu who said the two ended a pleasant evening in her apartment with a lighthearted joke before “making love.” A few hours later, he said, he was shocked when police arrived to speak with him.
“I had no idea, but later, she talked with policeman for maybe 30 minutes, and she told me ‘Oh, this was a horrible misunderstanding,’ ” he said in a police interview.
The undergraduate, who was 21 at the time, told the first police officers who interviewed her after a friend called police about possible sexual assault that she had not been raped, that it was “spontaneous sex” and “consensual” and that she didn’t need police assistance.
Shortly thereafter, the woman changed her position, and told police she wanted Liu charged with rape.
In December, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced he would not charge Liu, saying “there were profound evidentiary problems which would have made it highly unlikely that any criminal charge could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Liu, 46, whose Chinese name is Liu Qiangdong, is the founder of Beijing-based JD.com, an e-commerce site similar to Amazon with more than 300 million customers. Liu has an estimated net worth of $8 billion, according to Forbes. He’s known throughout Asia, and the allegations have been widely reported internationally.
The student, who is attending the Carlson School of Management, was assigned by the school to assist a group of high-level Chinese business executives, including Liu, who were at the U for a week last August as part of a four-year doctoral program in collaboration with Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Another executive invited the woman to a dinner party at Origami Restaurant in Uptown. The woman said the executives including Liu got her drunk, which Liu’s representatives deny. Afterward she was driven in the SUV to her university-area apartment building, where she let him in and the alleged rape took place on the night of Aug. 30-31.
While Liu was sleeping, she texted friends on WeChat, a Chinese social-messaging system, that she’d been raped. She asked them not to, but one friend called police.
According to her attorney, Wil Florin, police bodycam video shows her telling them she was raped, then denying it. Police did not include that video in Wednesday’s release.
Minneapolis police Sgt. Matthew Wente wrote that in his interview with her, he asked her if she wished to pursue an investigation.
“No, I just want it to go away,” she said, adding, “I want apology ... and money.”
Wente said her statement “took me by surprise.” He said he could forward her contact information to Liu’s attorney, Jill Brisbois, and she could communicate with her directly.
Wente said the woman told him in a follow-up phone call that “If I not hear from attorney by 6 p.m., I go to media.”
Brisbois told Wente she had several phone conversations with the woman and believed it was “a shakedown for money.” Brisbois included a flashdrive of the phone calls with the woman. In a transcript, the woman said, “I don’t want my name to be like, published on newspaper, no. I just need payment money and apologize and that’s all.” Brisbois asked her what her “proposal” was and the woman said she did not know.
“The evidence released today again reaffirms our strong belief from the very beginning that Mr. Liu is innocent,” Brisbois said in a statement Wednesday, adding that the evidence “fully dispels the misinformation and unsubstantiated speculation that has been widely circulated” against her client.
Florin said it was “ridiculous” to accuse his client of extortion. He said Minnesota criminal laws provide for restitution, and civil laws provide for compensation “and there’s nothing wrong with those requests.”
The woman in April filed a lawsuit against Liu and J.D.com, alleging that he raped her after encouraging her to drink too much. In her lawsuit, the woman alleges that she tried to persuade Liu at the dinner that she did not want to drink, but he insisted she drink wine and engage in toasts, saying it would embarrass him with the other executives if she did not drink. Video, according to police, shows him pouring her wine, but she is also seen pouring wine herself.
The woman was driven in Liu’s SUV to a mansion near Franklin and Pillsbury avenues, which the executives rented. The two got out of the vehicle, according to a transcript of an interview with the driver.
“They were talking and then he grabbed, uh, he, her arm, kind of overpower her, and bring her to my car in the back,” the driver, who is not identified, said. “I started driving,” the driver said. “I look in my mirror and this guy was all over this girl.” He said that Liu’s assistant, who was sitting in the passenger seat in the front, “saw me that I saw them and she grabbed my mirror and put it all the way up.”
Asked by Wente if the physical activity looked consensual, the driver said, “I can’t say that, no.” But he said he did not hear anyone say stop or cry for help.
He then drove them, along with Liu’s assistant, to her apartment building. Video surveillance footage shows Liu and the student walking inside the building with another woman who waited in a common area while the two took an elevator to the ninth floor. The student is seen placing her hand in the crook of Liu’s arm as they walk down the hall and chatting with him in the elevator.
The woman told police there was no doubt Liu held her down and raped her, but that she was fearful of asking police to charge him. “He’s very famous and he can do whatever he want with his money,” she told Wente.
Brisbois, Liu’s attorney, said the evidence “irrefutably supports the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office decision not to file charges against our client.”
“Mr. Liu remains grateful for the hard work of law enforcement to resolve this matter,” she said.