Song Charged, Students React

By Kyle Finck

On Monday, Sept. 9, lawyers for former Middlebury College student Dong Yub “Don” Song were back in Addison County Criminal Court facing allegations of Sexual Assault, stemming from an incident that occurred in the early morning hours of May 12.

The story of what happened that night was laid out in a seven-page affidavit filed last spring. While the victim’s name was redacted from the affidavit to protect her identity, Song’s name was released in the document and quickly published by the Addison Independent and middbeat in the following days. The case, and its coverage, opened a firestorm of mixed reactions from online readers.

“I’m so sorry this had to happen, but I am glad that the survivor had the courage to speak out,” commented “Anon1” on the middbeat article. “I know there are two sides to a story, but it is SO important that perpetrators learn that it doesn’t matter whether you INTEND it to be sexual assault or not.”

But other commenters defended Song, pointing to importance of presumed innocence.

“He has never given the Midd community any reason to doubt his character; by all accounts he is an upstanding individual,” commented a user under the name “Men’s Rights”. “Rape isn’t acceptable, but he is innocent until proven guilty, especially considering that Don is a decent human being, we must keep that in mind.”

Other viewers vilified middbeat for releasing Song’s name, despite the fact it was within their Constitutional rights and standard journalistic practice, bringing up questions of balancing a news sources’ rights with the need for discretion.

“What did middbeat gain from publishing his name? Subjecting a person to that kind of scrutiny and judgement on top of the case is insensitive,” wrote “Anon”.

Song’s attorney, Peter Langrock of the Middlebury firm Langrock, Sperry & Wool said his client would fight the allegations.

“We believe further investigation will show that this is all a misunderstanding between college students,” Langrock told the Independent in May on behalf of his client.  Langrock did not respond to multiple requests for comment over the summer and this fall.

The College has made sexual assault a key issue in past years, promoting awareness through student-led programs like It Happens Here (IHH) and by reworking the student handbook. IHH Founder Luke Carroll Brown ’14, who spearheaded much of the movement last year, said he was not surprised when he heard about the incident.

“These sorts of incidents should sadden us, they should move us, but they should not surprise us,” he wrote in an email. “In just two years, IHH has received more than 50 student submissions that describe the personal impact of sexual violence. 50. We owe it both to our community and to ourselves to recognize the pervasiveness of this unique problem and to realize the tremendous amount of suffering that results from it.”

If convicted, Song faces a jail sentence of three years to life, plus a fine of up to $25,000. He pled innocent.

The two parties will meet again in court in October.