11 May 2023

Cheating boyfriend choked woman at ANU during call to partner in China

| Albert McKnight
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man leaving court

Denghu Ji, 24, leaves the Canberra courts after his sentencing on Thursday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A two-timing boyfriend choked and assaulted his girlfriend at student accommodation at the Australian National University (ANU) while she was on a phone call to his other partner.

Denghu Ji choked her for about two minutes and only let go when the partner heard the noises the victim was making over the phone and told him to stop, the ACT Magistrates Court heard on Thursday (11 May).

In a statement, his victim said she often found herself crying for no reason after the attack.

“I felt worthless because I couldn’t believe that a man I had trusted had two girlfriends at the same time and also wanted to hurt me physically,” she said.

She said she had enjoyed university life before the attack. Afterwards, her grades dropped, she could only feel safe when she covered her face in a public and she felt “heartbroken and desperate” when she thought about Ji or what happened.

The court heard the victim didn’t know Ji already had a partner in China when she started dating him, but she eventually learned of this fact and called her over the phone.

Ji, then a 21-year-old student at the ANU, wanted to stop their discussion. He pushed his victim away because he wanted to get her away from the phone, then he squeezed her throat until his partner told him to stop over the call.

“I thought I was close to death,” the victim said of the choking.

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He contested his charges, but Magistrate James Stewart found them proved at a hearing.

He then appealed his convictions to the Supreme Court, but this was dismissed and the now-24-year-old returned to court for sentencing on Thursday, where he appeared wearing an ANU-labelled jumper.

The court heard the magistrate found Ji had made self-serving and gaslighting comments about the victim in his interview with police.

The prosecutor said that on multiple occasions, Ji told border authorities the allegations were false and the victim had made similar allegations before.

According to a psychological report he also said he didn’t believe his interaction with the victim was as serious as described.

The prosecutor argued a sentence of imprisonment was the only appropriate sentence, in part because two minutes was a very long time to choke someone, the attack caused pain to the victim and it involved a breach of trust, which had a significant impact on her.

Ji spent 17 days in custody over these charges before he received bail, with his lawyer wanting to note that while he was in custody he didn’t speak English, was in a foreign country and had no family in Australia.

His mother is a judge and his father is a banker and he was “taught from an early age to do nothing but excellence”, his lawyer said.

He said Ji, who now has a bachelor degree as he had been allowed to stay in the country on a bridging visa, had gotten good grades at university and had been accepted into honours.

He argued his client didn’t have the experience of how to conduct himself in relationships at the time and he had changed in the three years since the attack.

He had started a relationship with another woman, who was in the courtroom to support him.

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Magistrate Stewart said he was not presiding over a court of morals and infidelity was “one of the features of the human condition”, so this did not have an impact on sentencing.

He accepted Ji, whose family was of relatively high status in China, had been a young man who was out of his depth in his relationship quagmire.

He had no prior criminal history and had not committed any offences since.

Magistrate Stewart said rehabilitation was a paramount factor on sentencing due to his youth.

Ji was convicted on both charges, fined $2000 and sentenced to three months and 13 days imprisonment, wholly suspended for 12 months.

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