The trial of a former University of Iowa student accused first-degree kidnapping will be delayed, following a hearing Friday to discuss whether he fully understood his Miranda rights before he was interviewed by police.
Friday’s hearing centered around whether a recorded interview between the defendant, Peng Tang, who was born in China, and an Iowa City police detective should be accepted as evidence. The judge in the case did not immediately make a ruling.
Tang, 21, is charged with first-degree kidnapping and witness tampering in the case. Police said a woman was showing Tang her apartment as a possible sublet on March 29 when he locked her in a room with him, put a towel in her mouth, tried to tie her hands behind her back and forced her to perform sexual acts with him.
During the hearing, Tang’s attorney Eric Tindal questioned Iowa City police Detective David Gonzalez. Tindal asked Gonzalez about what position Tang was in when he was read his Miranda rights, whether many officers were shouting requests at him as they worked to bring him into custody and whether Gonzalez was sure Tang understood his Miranda rights before he was interviewed at the police station.
Gonzalez said he was in a car on a street near the location of Tang’s arrest, but added that he could not testify to exactly what happened when Tang was being taken into custody. He added that another Iowa City police officer, Carlos Trevino, read Tang his rights, assured him that Tang understood those rights and told him that interaction was recorded.
When Tindal asked Gonzalez what he did to assure himself that Tang understood his Miranda rights, Gonzelez said he trusted the other officers involved in Tang’s arrest.
“I have no reason and no platform not to trust one of my officers,” Gonzalez said, adding he did his own assessment before interrogating Tang by asking him to answer simple questions.
Tindal later called Tang to the stand, where he testified, through a translator, that he did not hear Trevino read him his rights and did not understand what Miranda rights were, adding there is no legal equivalent in China. He also said he did not understand everything Gonzalez said to him during his interrogation.
“At the beginning he asked very simple questions such as my age, my name, I could answer those questions,” Tang said through a translator. “Later he asked many very complicated questions and he spoke very fast. I could comprehend 50 percent, but I did my best to try to answer his questions.”
During questioning by Tindal and Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness, Tang said he provided a written statement in English to police following his interview. He also testified that he had studied English for about seven years before he came to the United States and took college courses in English, though he added he did not get a very good score on the English test he had to take to apply for college.
Following the hearing, Sixth District Judge Ian Thornhill said Tang’s trial, which had been scheduled for Oct. 16, will be continued. He said each attorney has until Oct. 26 to submit their arguments to him in writing regarding the defense’s motion to suppress the recorded interview.