Cecilia Chang, a former dean of St John’s University in New York accused of stealing over $1 million from the school as well as forcing scholarship students to work as her slaves, has committed suicide, according to the Daily News.
Chang’s body was discovered in her Jamaica Estates home after her son Steven, 27, who lives in Hawaii but was here for the trial, tried unsuccessfully to reach her by phone. He called 911.
Firefighters broke down the door and found her at 7:38 a.m. hanging by a stereo cord from a ladder leading to the attic. It was her third attempt to end her life — after slitting her wrists and trying to gas herself in a fireplace, sources said.
Chang left a suicide note, written in Chinese, that is yet to be released to the public. The judge overseeing her case, since declared a mistrial, characterised it as a “Shakespearean tragedy”.
The former Dean of Asian Studies had denied using students as slave labour:
“I am always helping some poor students,” Chang testified at her trial in Brooklyn federal court.
While one student testified earlier in the trial that she was forced to wash Chang’s underwear by hand, the so-called “Dean of Mean” insisted that students who washed her laundry did so voluntarily.
Dr Chang’s defence, which she conducted herself, was described by the New York Times as having “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.”
Hoping to save her own hide, Chang threw her superiors under the bus during her Monday tirade on the stand. She claimed she bankrolled the Atlantic City gambling jaunts of the late school president, the Rev. Joseph Cahill. And she claimed she passed $400,000 in cash to the current president, the Rev. Donald Harrington, “to help the poor.” Chang said she decked him out with 40 to 50 custom-made suits from the famed “Sam the Tailor” in Hong Kong.
Chang was repeatedly admonished by Johnson for arguing with both the prosecutor and her own lawyer.