Leung case continues to face delays

  • Howie Leung, left, at one of his first court appearances.

Monitor staff
Published: 7/30/2022 4:03:15 PM

Nearly 3½ years after ex-Concord High teacher Howie Leung was arrested, he has yet to face a jury in Massachusetts, where he is accused of sexually assaulting a former student. Meanwhile, across state lines, New Hampshire officials say their case against Leung remains open, though no charges have been filed.

The Massachusetts trial, which was due to take place this summer, has been rescheduled five times as the state continues to dig out from a backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest date has been set for January 2023.

Leung is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a former Concord student during the summers of 2015 and 2016 at the Fessenden Summer ELL Program in Newton, Mass., when the student was 13 and 14 years old. He is being tried in Massachusetts because that is where that crime allegedly occurred.

Leung is facing two charges of aggravated rape of a child with a 10-year age difference, two charges of aggravated indecent assault and battery on a child under age 14 and two counts of aggravated indecent assault and battery on a person age 14 or older. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Prosecutors have not brought any sexual assault charges against Leung in New Hampshire, despite reports that abuses happened in the Granite State, highlighted in initial court documents and a report from an independent investigation of the Concord School District.

Concord Police’s investigation into Leung’s behavior began in February 2019, after the New Hampshire Department of Education notified them about reports that the special education teacher was having an “inappropriate relationship” with a student.

But when Concord Police arrested Leung at Concord Hospital on the morning of April 3, 2019, it was as a fugitive from justice from Massachusetts. In March 2019, New Hampshire informed Massachusetts authorities of reports that Leung abused the student at the Fessenden School in Massachusetts, according to the affidavit, and Commonwealth prosecutors issued an arrest warrant on March 27, 2019, for two counts of child rape and two charges of indecent assault and battery.

A Concord Police affidavit filed the day of Leung’s arrest says their investigation yielded reports from a former middle school student that Leung abused her between 2014 and 2016 in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The 2019 report drafted by independent investigator Djuna Perkins says emails between Leung and the underage student suggest the sexual assaults began in February 2015, four months before the student crossed state lines to work at the Fessenden School in Massachusetts.

Deputy Chief John Thomas from the Concord Police Department said New Hampshire’s investigation of Leung is still open and ongoing, with pending charges, and that the prosecution proceeded quickly in Massachusetts due to the strength of the charges.

“The Massachusetts charges are stronger charges right now; that’s why our case is still technically open,” Thomas said.

Merrimack County Attorney Paul Halvorsen declined to speak about why Leung has not been prosecuted in New Hampshire, citing the ongoing investigation.

Leung’s New Hampshire criminal case file at Concord District Court contains nothing more recent than his April 2019 arrest and a May 2019 case status hearing.

New Hampshire attorney Mark Rufo represents Fabiana McLeod, who has come forward publicly as a survivor of alleged abuse by Leung in 2014 and 2016 while she was a middle school student. Rufo believes New Hampshire law enforcement has not been doing enough to address the allegations against Leung. Rufo, who represented McLeod during her $545,000 settlement with the Concord School District, has been encouraging people with knowledge of other instances of misconduct to come forward and talk.

“I was disturbed that none of our law enforcement agencies in New Hampshire, which are very lavishly funded, seem to take any interest in this case,” Rufo said. “I feel that New Hampshire law enforcement has very much dropped the ball and it’s unfortunate that private parties, therefore, have to get involved, but otherwise nothing will get done.”

Albert (Buzz) Scherr, a law professor at the University of New Hampshire Law School, says there’s no norm for how states typically respond when a crime is alleged to have occurred across state lines, but he said that in cases where only one state chooses to prosecute, it can be a sign that one state has stronger evidence than the other.

“It’s really an individual decision by each of the prosecutors,” Scherr said. “They may coordinate with each other and decide which trial would go first. They may decide that each prosecutor has to evaluate independently the strength of their case. It may be that one case is much stronger than the other, and so why not go forward with the stronger one, see what happens, see what sentence is given, and then consider, if the outcome isn’t satisfactory, what to do with the other case.”

Leung’s jury trial in Massachusetts is scheduled for Jan 17, 2023, with a final trial conference on Dec. 16.

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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