Content Warning: sexual assault
Peter Chen, former professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan, appeared in the 22nd Circuit Court of Washtenaw County on Thursday afternoon for a pre-trial hearing.
Chen is charged with criminal sexual misconduct of the first degree, a felony that could carry a sentence of life imprisonment. He will stand trial Jan. 31 at 8:30 a.m.
At the pre-trial hearing Thursday, prosecutor Andrew Childers and Chen’s lawyer, Mariell Lehman, stated no agreements had been made regarding the case. They both thought there would be no resolution and jointly recommended to the court that the case proceeds to trial.
Judge Darlene O’Brien, who presided over the case, said there will be a final pre-trial hearing on Dec. 16. In the meantime, all of Chen’s bond conditions — remaining out of custody on personal recognizance and restricted access with minors — continue to apply.
At a preliminary examination in Ann Arbor’s 15th District Court in July, Judge Miriam Perry found that probable cause existed to believe the crime of criminal sexual conduct of the first degree occurred and that Chen committed the crime. The case then proceeded to the 22nd Circuit Court.
Allegations against Chen surfaced less than a year after sexual misconduct allegations against CSE professor Jason Mars, which triggered calls for Mars’ removal and an uproar from students. Chen became the interim chair of CSE following the departure of Brian Noble, who abruptly stepped down in February 2020. Chen resigned only six months later due to “personal reasons.”
The department has dealt with other allegations of sexual misconduct against former CSE professor Walter Lasecki, whose resignation took effect in August.
Shannon Smith, who is listed as Chen’s attorney on the court docket, was not present at the hearing. Lehman and Smith’s firm, Smith Lehman, represents Chen and specializes in criminal sexual misconduct allegations. Smith will be present at the trial in January.
Smith represented the now-convicted Larry Nassar, who faced more than 150 sexual misconduct allegations from his time as a professor at Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and USA National Gymnastics team doctor.
In a January 2021 statement to The Daily, Lehman said that Chen denied the allegations against him.
“(Chen) completely denies the allegations and has cooperated fully with (AAPD) to assist them in their investigation,” Lehman wrote. “Mr. Chen is confident that the truth will prevail and that he will be exonerated fully. Mr. Chen thanks the numerous people who have reached out in support of him over the last few days.”
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Nassar was a professor at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine. It has been corrected to reflect he was a professor at Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Daily Staff Reporter Jared Dougall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.