Two plead guilty to 2015 Whitestone slashing: DA

Devon Berkley, 39, shown here fleeing the scene after slashing a teenage girl’s face in Whitestone in 2015, has pleaded gulty.
By Mark Hallum

Two men have pleaded guilty to slashing a teenage Chinese exchange student’s face in what they claim to have been a case of mistaken identity on the streets of Whitestone in December 2015.

Wilson Lai, 26, of Oakland Gardens admitted to hiring Pennsylvania resident Devon Berkley, 39, to attack his underage girlfriend, who lived in the same place as the victim, 16-year-old JiaJia Liang.

Both pleaded guilty to first-degree assault, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Liang was on her way to school when her face was abruptly slashed twice by Berkley, according to the DA, and still bears the scars. The wounds required up to 200 stitches.

“In pleading guilty, the defendants have admitted to a heinous attack on a teenage girl,” Brown said. “The victim in this case was not the target, but nonetheless she will forever be marred by the memory of what happened to her and the scars on her face. The defendants in the case deserve to be incarcerated as punishment for their crime.”

Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak said the two would face sentencing on Feb. 14. He is expected to hand Lai a 19-year prison sentence and Berkley one of 18 years, both to be followed by five years of post-release supervision, the DA said.

Lai was arrested in June 2016, and Berkley was later extradited from Pennsylvania.

Lt. Timothy Thompson of the 109th Precinct said at a 2016 news conference that Lai was facing multiple counts of rape, assault, criminal sex act, criminal mischief, conspiracy, acting in a manner injurious to a child, harassment and criminal possession of a weapon.

The rape charges were because of the sexual nature of Lai’s relationship with the intended victim, Thompson said in 2016.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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