2018-02-21 / Front Page

Stiff Sentences For Teen Slash Duo

By Liz Goff
Two men charged with the violent slashing of a Chinese exchange student in December 2015 were sentenced last week to 18 and 19 years in prison.

Queens Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak sentenced Devon Berkley, 39, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, to 18 years in prison followed by five years post release supervision for the slashing attack that left the victim with visible scars on her face.

Berkeley admitted in court last month that he was hired by his co-defendant, Wilson Lai, to slash the face of a different teen.

When Lasak asked Berkeley if there was anything he wanted to say before his sentencing Berkley stated, “I have a lot I want to say, Judge.” Defense Attorney Jeffrey Cohen quickly silenced his client, saying “No, not at this time.”

Berkeley, who was extradited from Pennsylvania to Queens and charged with multiple counts of assault, conspiracy, endangering the welfare of a child, criminal possession of a weapon, rape, criminal sexual act, criminal mischief, aggravated mischief and harassment, was facing 20 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

Lai, 26, of Oakland Gardens, Queens, was facing multiple counts of assault, conspiracy, endangering the welfare of a child, criminal possession of a weapon, along with multiple counts of rape and criminal sexual act, criminal mischief, aggravated mischief and harassment. He was facing 32 years in prison, if convicted.

The attack that disfigured the young student appeared to be a twisted act of violence, until the man behind the crime gave cops the break they needed to bring him and his hired hit man to justice, authorities said.

Detectives at the 109th Precinct Squad arrested Lai on May 26, 2016 and charged him with hiring Berkley to attack another girl Lai had a sexual relationship with, prosecutors said. Lai had a one-year sexual relationship with the intended victim, starting in June 2013, when she was 14-years old, according to prosecutors.

“Thereafter, it is alleged that Lai and Berkley conspired in December 2015 to assault the teenager,” Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

On December 16, 2015, Berkley mistook the Chinese exchange student – who lived in the same residence and was the same age as the intended target – for the target and surprised her as she walked to school, slashing her twice, leaving two long scars on the left side of her face, Brown said.

Jia Jia Liang, 16, was walking to classes at the Whitestone Academy on the morning of the attack when Berkley suddenly jogged up behind her and used a box cutter to slash the left side of her face from her ear to her throat. He then slashed her neck before running away.

Liang was taken to Cohen’s Children’s Hospital, where doctors used more than 200 stitches to close the deep gashes in her face and neck. The teen underwent multiple surgeries and still suffers from scarring on her face.

Berkley never bothered to learn whom he was targeting, prosecutors said. “The two girls lived in the same house and they were the same age, Berkley attacked the first Asian teenager he saw coming from the home.”

It is unclear how much Lai may have paid Berkley for carrying out the attack, a law enforcement source said.

Three weeks after the attack, a birthday card appeared on the windshield of a car owned by the mother of the intended victim, prosecutors said. In a handwritten note inside the card, the author admitted that Liang was slashed by mistake – and warned the 14-year-old that he would return to cut her up. “Your beautiful face will soon be gone,” the note read. “I know a lot about you b---h. Stop being a slut. You f----d with the wrong person,” the author wrote.

Detectives at the 109 Squad matched handwriting on the note with Lai’s handwriting, police officials said. “That broke open the case.” 

Lasak blasted Lai prior to his sentencing for his role in the vicious attack saying, “You had a problem with a girlfriend, and the relationship didn’t work out. So you decided to disfigure her, and then the guy you hired cut the wrong girl.”

Lai was sentenced to 19 years in prison followed by five years post-release supervision.

“Last month, the two defendants in this case pleaded guilty to brutally attacking a teenage girl,” Brown said. “The victim in this case was not the intended target, but nonetheless she will have to live with the pain of the slashing for the rest of her life – as well as the permanent scars that remain visible on her face.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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