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Chinese overseas

Bail revoked: former chemistry student Yukai Yang is jailed for ‘trying to flee to China to evade US poisoning case’

  • US prosecutors say Yukai Yang tried to orchestrate his own deportation to China to avoid an attempted murder charge in Pennsylvania
  • Yang is accused of trying to kill his black roommate, Juwan Royal, by slowly poisoning him with thallium
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 January, 2019, 6:18am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 January, 2019, 10:48pm

Yukai Yang, a former chemistry student at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania who is accused of slowly poisoning his roommate, was ordered held without bail on Friday over allegations he sought to flee to his native China by orchestrating his own deportation to avoid prosecution.

Yang must remain in Northampton County Jail until his criminal charges are resolved, a judge ruled at a hearing, the Allentown Morning Call reported.

Yang, a 23-year-old chemistry major and Chinese national, was charged last month with the attempted murder of his roommate, allegedly slipping the colourless, odourless chemical thallium into his food and drink.

Prosecutors are investigating whether Yang also tried to poison a second Lehigh student.

Chinese chemistry student Yukai Yang accused of slowly poisoning black roommate

Last week, prosecutors said they foiled an attempt by Yang to leave the US by making bail and cooperating with immigration agents.

“Mr Yang thought that because he is a foreign national, now here illegally in that his student visa has been revoked, that he could post bail, waive his right to a deportation hearing and abscond,” District Attorney John Morganelli said in a statement. “That will not happen.”

On Friday, Yang’s defence team argued that he was not a flight risk and was entitled to bail, even if his immigration status could see him removed from the United States. Outside court, defence lawyer Janet Jackson declined to comment on the case, beyond a brief statement.

“My client intends to fight these charges, completely intends to fight these charges,” she said. “And I’m not as interested in trying this case in the press as the commonwealth seems to be.”

Yang had originally been being held pending US$200,000 bail. But a day after his arraignment, Yang’s family posted the money, leading Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to take Yang into custody to deport him.

Prosecutors allege Yang intended to waive challenges to his removal, allowing him to immediately be sent to China. That had prosecutors seeking to have Yang held without bail.

Judge Stephen Baratta said in agreeing to the request to revoke bail that it was the only way to make sure he is not deported, otherwise “it’s a done deal. He’s out of here if I don’t do anything.”

Yang was initially charged this spring with vandalism and ethnic intimidation after the roommate, Juwan Royal, who is black, found racist graffiti in the room. Royal has since graduated, but continues to suffer effects of the poisoning, authorities said. The two had lived together for several years without incident, authorities said, adding that Yang’s motives remain unclear.

Assistant District Attorney Abraham Kassis told the Morning Call that authorities continued to investigate to see if there is a second victim, but would not comment further.

Royal experienced progressively worse symptoms over the course of several months, including dizziness, shaking and vomiting, and his blood tested positive for thallium.