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A court in Beijing found Li Guanfeng, the 17-year-old son of prominent military artist Li Shuangjiang, guilty on Thursday of charges of gang-raping a woman earlier this year and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.
The verdict is likely to bring an end to more than six months of intense scrutiny of Li’s lifestyle, which triggered a wider debate about privilege and special treatment reserved for the offspring of senior officials.
The Haidian District People’s Court in Beijing found that on February 17, Li and four other young men had forcibly taken a part-time student from a bar in the capital's university district to a hotel room, where they beat and raped her.
"Li and the others dragged [the victim] into the hotel room and asked her to undress. When she refused, they punched and kicked her and took off her clothes by force," the verdict said.
"Then Li and others raped her, one after the other, with simultaneous obscene acts by certain defendants."
“In the course of committing the crime they have performed obscene acts to the victim, which should be seen as part of the criminal act of gang rape and have been put into consideration when determining the level of punishment,” according to verdict shared on the microblog of the Beijing judiciary.
The court said it had taken Li's age into account in sentencing him, but determined he led the attack and was the first to rape the girl.
"He played a bigger role than the others and refused to admit his guilt," said the findings, which were published on a court website.
Another defendant surnamed Wang, the only one of them who was an adult when the crime was committed, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. The other three received jail sentences of between three and four years.
Li's father, 74-year-old Li Shuangjiang, is a household name in China, a successful singer and art educator working the People's Liberation Army. He enjoys a non-combat rank generally believed to be equivalent to that of a major general. However, at the order of top leader Xi Jinping in late August, the PLA issued strict new guidelines banning military artists like Li from associating themselves with military ranks.
The Li family and their lawyers had in recent months spread information about the victim and the owner of the bar, where Li met the woman, to journalists in efforts to discredit their testimony ahead of the trial. Li's mother, Meng Ge, in a last statement ahead of the verdict said that the court should consider that the victim was a bar girl paid to have drinks with customers. The court ruled that her profession "had no direct relationship" to the charges.
Li’s lawyer Lan He told journalists outside the court on Thursday ahead of the verdict that Li would appeal the sentence.
Three of the other defendants have paid the victim each 150,000 yuan in compensation. The civil lawsuit will be heard after the criminal trial, which ended on Thursday.
In an online discussion after the trial, leading judge Qin Shuo addressed speculation that Li had misled the court about his true age in order to ensure a more lenient sentence.
Ge marshalled huge resources in defence of her son, inviting 12 leading lawyers to discuss the case. She pushed for an open trial and petitioned the Public Security Ministry on August 19.
Chen Youxi , a top lawyer, said the prosecution evidence was not strong enough and Li stood a good chance of winning his appeal.
Li has been in the public eye since childhood, when he performed patriotic songs with his famous father. His mother Meng Ge is also a well-known singer for the People’s Liberation Army.
In September 2011 Li gained a more notorious prominence, when he attacked a couple after his unlicensed BMW crashed into their car and they tried to stop him from fleeing the scene. That assault landed him in a juvenile correctional facility for a year.