Three Chinese students studying in the San Gabriel Valley will serve prison time for the kidnapping and assault of a classmate under a plea deal reached this week, ending a case that drew international headlines.
The attack in March of last year turned the spotlight on the growing number of so-called parachute kids — mostly Chinese students who live and attend school in Southern California while their parents remain in China.
Authorities alleged that Yunyao “Helen” Zhai, Yuhan “Coco” Yang and Xinlei “John” Zhang were part of a group of teens who forced Yiran “Camellia” Liu to use her hands to wipe cigarette butts and ice cream from the floor of a Rowland Heights ice cream parlor.
Liu, who was 18 at the time of the assault, testified that she was taken to a nearby park, stripped naked, kicked with high-heeled shoes, slapped and burned with cigarettes.
The three defendants, who are all now 19 years old, were charged with torture, kidnapping and assault. Attorneys for Zhai and Yang previously acknowledged that their clients participated in the attack. A lawyer for Zhang argued in court that his client was only a bystander.
At the preliminary hearing for the teens, a judge said the case reminded him of “Lord of the Flies,” William Golding’s 1954 novel about boys stranded on a deserted island.
Under the agreement with prosecutors, the trio will plead no contest to charges of kidnapping and assault, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Casey Jarvis, who is prosecuting the case. Zhai will be sentenced to 13 years in prison, Yang to 10 and Zhang to six, he said.