SMU molestation trial: Accused says victim was 'fine' with his advances

SINGAPORE – The Singapore Management University (SMU) student rested his feet on the woman’s thighs, tried to kiss her repeatedly, touched her breasts over her bra and even exposed himself to her during their overnight study session, but he thought she was fine with his advances.

Appearing before a district court on Monday (April 5) with his parents and younger brother in the public gallery, Lee Yan Ru, 24, gave his account of what happened in the early hours of Jan 8, 2019, and testified that he did not intend to outrage the woman’s modesty.

The woman, who is studying at another university, cannot be named due to a gag order.

Lee, who was being examined by his lawyer Josephine Chee from Rajah & Tann on Monday morning, said: “I thought as the night progress(ed), (the woman) and I were becoming more comfortable with each other and she was completely fine with my advances.

“To me, and I believe her as well, we were getting more intimate so I took out my private part to be more intimate with her.”

Lee, who the court heard is working at a digital services start-up, was describing the events that led up to an incident at around 6.30am on Jan 8, 2019, in which he allegedly used criminal force on the victim by rubbing his exposed private part against her chest, intending to outrage her modesty.

He is said to have stimulated himself while he was on top of the woman, who was asleep.

Lee said that the pair met on Instagram in early January 2019, after he replied to one of her posts.

The conversation moved to messaging application Telegram and they eventually met on Jan 7 that year in a cafe near SMU.

Later that evening, they arranged to meet to study together in a group study room in the School of Economics at SMU.

Lee testified that in the room, while the pair sat across from each other, he “playfully” rested his feet on her thighs.

“She did not state any form of discomfort… There was no reaction (and) there were times my feet dropped off and she placed it back,” he told the court.

The woman earlier testified she had been uncomfortable with him doing this and pushed it off repeatedly.

Later on, Lee said he placed his hands beneath the woman’s singlet to touch her breasts over her bra without using much force.

He recalled her giggling for a moment when he initially touched her right breast.

“I felt that throughout the night since she entered the classroom, we were getting more and more comfortable with each other… I thought we were getting more intimate (so I) touched right breast to get more intimate… She was fine with it.”

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The incident lasted only a few seconds and Lee said that she gently removed his hands from her singlet.

After a smoke break, Lee recalled two incidents but could not remember the order they took place in.

In one incident, he tried to unhook her bra but she stood up and did not react in any other way so he stopped, he said.

In the other event, he stood facing her while she sat on the table and kissed her cheek to which she responded “ew”.

Lee said he was glad that she made that reaction because that was made in jest and it told him she was fine with him kissing her.

He then pulled down his shorts and exposed his private part, and it touched her thigh.

“She did not say anything but we remained very close to each other. My arms were around her. The mood was still very intimate between us,” he said, adding that the interaction lasted a few minutes before he pulled his shorts up.

The trial continues on Monday afternoon.

If convicted of molesting the woman, Lee can be jailed for up to two years, fined, caned, or given any combination of these penalties.

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