crimes and misdemeanors

The Five Zaniest Moments in Court From St. John’s ‘Dean of Mean’

Via Brian Turner / steakpinball on Flickr

There’s a reason they make television shows about courtroom drama, but rarely does the actual courtroom live up to Law and Order or Judge Judy. On Monday, however, it was a little of both during the testimony of Cecilia Chang, the former St. John’s University dean accused of stealing $1 million from the school and making foreign students into her personal servants. The testimony, which Chang gave against the advice of her lawyers, “careened so far out of her control that the courtroom often trembled with laughter and prosecutors who were not involved in the case flocked to the courtroom to catch a glimpse,” the Times reported. Here are the highlights:

  • On lying to FBI agents: “Her excuse for lying to an FBI agent about overseas bank accounts? She was drunk as a skunk the day he interviewed her.” [NYDN]
  • On charging Victoria’s Secret purchases, gambling costs, and online dating bills to the University because she felt she was owed money for personal expenses she had laid out over the years: “I realize it’s not the proper way to do it,” Dr. Chang said. “But it’s the only way.” [NYT]
  • On the students whom she allegedly forced to wash her clothes, clean her house, and deliver cases of liquor to her near-permanent room at Foxwoods casino: “‘Always one or two students who couldn’t afford rent live in my house,’ she said from the stand. ‘They’re very close friends to me.’” [Bloomberg Businessweek]
  • On how she spent her own money for the university: “She also said she passed $400,000 in cash to [University president Donald] Harrington over a decade ‘to help the poor’ and that he scored 40 to 50 custom-made suits from famed ‘Sam the Tailor’ in Hong Kong.” [NYDN]
  • The judge, on her unsolicited testimony:

I said yes or no, and you don’t be yelling at me,” Judge Johnson said. “You understand that?”

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“You’re going to be sorry,” he warned.

Update: In a tragic turn of events, Cecelia Chang committed suicide on Monday evening after her disastrous court testimony. As Felix Salmon noted: “Justice shouldn’t be some kind of bloodsport. She might have deserved a prison sentence, she didn’t deserve death.”

Dean of Mean’s Five Zaniest Moments in Court