Former Lehigh Student Allegedly Poisoned Black Roommate, Wrote Racist Message In Dorm Room

A former Lehigh University student from China who was already facing ethnic intimidation charges against a black dormitory roommate is now accused of attempted homicide by trying to slowly poison him

A former Lehigh University student from China who was already facing ethnic intimidation charges against a black dormitory roommate is now accused of attempted homicide by trying to slowly but surely poison him.NORTHAMPTON COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

Pennsylvania prosecutors said Thursday that Yukai Yang, 22, allegedly poisoned his Lehigh roommate, Juwan Royal, also 22, whose blood tested positive for the chemical thallium after he reported becoming increasingly sick. Yang, a chemistry major, gained access to the toxic chemical that is colorless, odorless and tasteless. In May, Yang was charged with ethnic intimidation, institutional vandalism and criminal mischief after he scrawled the n-word on a desk in the room he shared with Royal, who is black.

Yang later admitted to Lehigh University police he purchased several chemicals, but with the intent of doing harm to himself should he perform poorly on assignments and exams.

Assistant District Attorney Abe Kassis told NBC News Yang had surreptitiously been slipping the poisonous thallium chemical into Royal’s mouthwash, food and casual beverages he’d find unattended throughout their dorm room. In February, Royal told campus police he felt a burning sensation after drinking from a water bottle in his room. Much of the poison was allegedly secretly placed into food and drinks in their shared dorm room refrigerator.

Royal also became increasingly sick back in March with symptoms of dizziness, vomiting and uncontrollable shaking. During questioning about the racist note left in the room, campus police separately confronted Yang about Royal’s mysterious sickness. Prosecutors said that much like the slow process Yang was using to poison his roommate, Royal slowly realized what was happening.

“Initially, Mr. Royal was as dumbfounded by this as everyone else, because he believed they had a fairly cordial relationship as roommates,” Kassis told NBC News.

Yang is an international student from China who turned himself into police in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania Thursday on charges of attempted homicide, aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli announced.

Yang is no longer enrolled at Lehigh and his student visa has been revoked as he faces the slew of charges related to the alleged poisoning.

“The Lehigh University Police Department has worked closely with the District Attorney’s Office on the investigation and will continue to do so,” a spokeswoman for the school said in a statement to a local NBC affiliate. “From the outset, our concern has been the health and safety of the victim of these alleged behaviors and, as such, Lehigh staff and faculty have been providing support, services and assistance.”

Tuskegee Experiment: The Infamous Syphilis Study

In order to track the disease’s full progression, researchers provided no effective care as the study’s African American participants experienced severe health problems including blindness, mental impairment—or death.ELIZABETH NIX

The Tuskegee experiment began in 1932, at at a time when there was no known treatment for syphilis, a contagious venereal disease. After being recruited by the promise of free medical care, 600 African American men in Macon County, Alabama were enrolled in the project, which aimed to study the full progression of the disease.

The participants were primarily sharecroppers, and many had never before visited a doctor. Doctors from the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS), which was running the study, informed the participants—399 men with latent syphilis and a control group of 201 others who were free of the disease—they were being treated for bad blood, a term commonly used in the area at the time to refer to a variety of ailments.

Participants in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.
The National Archives

The men were monitored by health workers but only given placebos such as aspirin and mineral supplements, despite the fact that penicillin became the recommended treatment for syphilis in 1947, some 15 years into the study. PHS researchers convinced local physicians in Macon County not to treat the participants, and instead research was done at the Tuskegee Institute. (Now called Tuskegee University, the school was founded in 1881 with Booker T. Washington at its first teacher.)

In order to track the disease’s full progression, researchers provided no effective care as the men died, went blind or insane or experienced other severe health problems due to their untreated syphilis.

In the mid-1960s, a PHS venereal disease investigator in San Francisco named Peter Buxton found out about the Tuskegee study and expressed his concerns to his superiors that it was unethical. In response, PHS officials formed a committee to review the study but ultimately opted to continue it—with the goal of tracking the participants until all had died, autopsies were performed and the project data could be analyzed.

Buxton then leaked the story to a reporter friend, who passed it on to a fellow reporter, Jean Heller of the Associated Press. Heller broke the story in July 1972, prompting public outrage and forcing the study to finally shut down.

By that time, 28 participants had perished from syphilis, 100 more had passed away from related complications, at least 40 spouses had been diagnosed with it and the disease had been passed to 19 children at birth.

A man receiving treatment in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.
The National Archives

In 1973, Congress held hearings on the Tuskegee experiments, and the following year the study’s surviving participants, along with the heirs of those who died, received a $10 million out-of-court settlement. Additionally, new guidelines were issued to protect human subjects in U.S. government-funded research projects.

As a result of the Tuskegee experiment, many African Americans developed a lingering, deep mistrust of public health officials and vaccines. In part to foster racial healing, President Bill Clinton issued a 1997 apology, stating, “The United States government did something that was wrong—deeply, profoundly, morally wrong… It is not only in remembering that shameful past that we can make amends and repair our nation, but it is in remembering that past that we can build a better present and a better future.”

During his apology, Clinton announced plans for the establishment of Tuskegee University’s National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care.

Herman Shaw speaks as President Bill Clinton looks on, during ceremonies at the White House on May 16, 1997. Clinton apologized to the survivors and families of the victims of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.
Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

Tuskegee wasn’t the first unethical syphilis study. In 2010, then-President Barack Obama and other federal officials apologized for another U.S.-sponsored experiment, conducted decades earlier in Guatemala. In that study, from 1946 to 1948, nearly 700 men and women—prisoners, soldiers, mental patients—were intentionally infected with syphilis (hundreds more people were exposed to other sexually transmitted diseases as part of the study) without their knowledge or consent.

The purpose of the study was to determine whether penicillin could prevent, not just cure, syphilis infection. Some of those who became infected never received medical treatment. The results of the study, which took place with the cooperation of Guatemalan government officials, were never published. The American public health researcher in charge of the project, Dr. John Cutler, went on to become a lead researcher in the Tuskegee experiments.

Following Cutler’s death in 2003, historian Susan Reverby uncovered the records of the Guatemala experiments while doing research related to the Tuskegee study. She shared her findings with U.S. government officials in 2010. Soon afterward, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius issued an apology for the STD study and President Obama called the Guatemalan president to apologize for the experiments.

U.S. owes black people reparations for a history of ‘racial terrorism,’ says U.N. panel

imrs.phpSlave shackles on display at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The history of slavery in the United States justifies reparations for African Americans, argues a recent report by a U.N.-affiliated group based in Geneva.

This conclusion was part of a study by the United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, a body that reports to the international organization’s High Commissioner on Human Rights. The group of experts, which includes leading human rights lawyers from around the world, presented its findings to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday, pointing to the continuing link between present injustices and the dark chapters of American history.

“In particular, the legacy of colonial history, enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality in the United States remains a serious challenge, as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent,” the report stated. “Contemporary police killings and the trauma that they create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynching.”

Citing the past year’s spate of police officers killing unarmed African American men, the panel warned against “impunity for state violence,” which has created, in its words, a “human rights crisis” that “must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”

The panel drew its recommendations, which are nonbinding and unlikely to influence Washington, after a fact-finding mission in the United States in January. At the time, it hailed the strides taken to make the American criminal justice system more equitable but pointed to the corrosive legacy of the past.

“Despite substantial changes since the end of the enforcement of Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, ideology ensuring the domination of one group over another, continues to negatively impact the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of African Americans today,” it said in a statement. “The dangerous ideology of white supremacy inhibits social cohesion amongst the US population.”

United Nations working group says U.S. owes reparations for slavery, mass incarceration

In its report, it specifically dwells on the extrajudicial murders that were a product of an era of white supremacy:

Lynching was a form of racial terrorism that has contributed to a legacy of racial inequality that the United States must address. Thousands of people of African descent were killed in violent public acts of racial control and domination and the perpetrators were never held accountable.

The reparations could come in a variety of forms, according to the panel, including “a formal apology, health initiatives, educational opportunities … psychological rehabilitation, technology transfer and financial support, and debt cancellation.”

To be sure, such initiatives are nowhere in the cards, even after the question of reparations arose again two years ago when surfaced by the groundbreaking work of American journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Separately, a coalition of Caribbean nations is calling for reparations from their former European imperial powers for the impact of slavery, colonial genocide and the toxic racial laws that shaped life for the past two centuries in these countries. Their efforts are fitful, and so far not so fruitful.

When asked by reporters to comment on the tone of the American presidential election campaign on Monday, the working group’s chairman, Ricardo A. Sunga of the Philippines, expressed concern about “hate speech … xenophobia [and] Afrophobia” that he felt was prevalent in the campaign, although he didn’t specifically call out Republican candidate Donald Trump.

“We are very troubled that these are on the rise,” said Sunga.

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