News, Off Campus, Top Story

Former BC Student Inyoung You Pleads Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter

Inyoung You, the former Boston College student charged in connection with the suicide of her boyfriend, Alexander Urtula, pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter on Thursday, according to The Boston Globe.

In Suffolk County Superior Court, You admitted that she sent tens of thousands of texts to Urtula, BC ’19, in the months leading up to his death—texts which Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins described as evidence of You’s pattern of physical, verbal, and psychological abuse toward Urtula. 

Superior Court Judge Robert Ullmann sentenced You to a 2.5-year suspended jail sentence and 10 years of probation. You could have faced up to 20 years in prison if the case had gone to trial, according to the Globe.

The suspended sentence means You will avoid jail time if she adheres to the conditions of her probation, which include mental health treatment, 300 hours of community service, and an order that she cannot profit or benefit in any way from her case, according to a statement the DA’s office sent to The Heights.

“This agreement with defense counsel was made in close consultation with the Urtula family,” Rollins said in the statement. “It is consistent with their desire to seek accountability and closure and to protect the legacy of Alexander, a loving son, brother, and uncle. They believe this is something Alexander would have wanted.’’

In May 2019, Urtula jumped to his death from a parking garage in Roxbury, Mass., just hours before he was set to graduate from BC. You took an Uber to the garage after learning of Urtula’s plan to commit suicide, and she was present at the time of his death.

You’s abuse worsened in the days and hours leading up to Urtula’s death, according to Rollins. Rollins said many of the thousands of texts You sent to Urtula were evidence of her abuse, including texts in which she tells Urtula to “go kill himself” and that she, his family, and the world would be better off without him. 

“We have a barrage of a complete and utter attack on this man’s very will and conscience and psyche by an individual—to the tune of 47,000 text messages in the two months leading up—and an awareness, we would argue, of his frail state at that point,” Rollins said at a press conference in October 2019.

Associate Vice President for University Communications Jack Dunn told The Heights in 2019 that You, formerly MCAS ’20, withdrew from classes in August of that year.

Rollins highlighted in the statement sent to The Heights that abuse can take many forms—not just physical, but also psychological. 

“When we think of domestic violence, we often picture a man abusing a female intimate partner,” she said in the statement. “However, we see abusers as well as victims across the gender spectrum. Abuse occurs within every type of family constellation, not just between intimate partners, and across every religion, race, ethnicity, neighborhood and socioeconomic standing.”

As Ullmann imposed You’s sentence, the DA statement said he asked You “to make every possible effort to [live] your life in a way that will honor the life of Alexander Urtula.”

Ullmann also said he hopes this case will stress to teens and young adults that “this type of messaging, demeaning someone when they are feeling down or even suggesting suicide can have devastating consequences,” according to the Globe.

In a statement sent to The Heights on Thursday, Steven Kim, one of You’s lawyers, thanked Rollins for supporting the plea and said her support is a testament to her “thoughtful and careful approach to seek justice while minimizing harm to all.”

“Once in a while, justice can be carved out of this often blunt and imperfect system, that achieves a satisfactory result for all parties involved,” Kim said in the statement. “That is what happened today.”

In January, the Superior Court Judge Christine Roach denied in part You’s motion to dismiss the charges against her. Roach granted You’s motion to dismiss a manslaughter by omission charge—that You’s failure to call for help resulted in Urtula’s death—but denied her motion to dismiss the manslaughter by commission charge—that You’s messages could have caused Urtula to kill himself. The case was originally scheduled for argument on Feb. 2 of next year. 

You has chosen to give up her appeal, which was pending before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), and accept responsibility for her involuntary role in Urtula’s death, according to Kim.  

“This result avoids uncertainty in prolonging this further in the courts and the potential for a circus like trial that would serve no purpose other than to sell newspapers and click bait ads on the internet,” he said in the statement. 

You faced the same charges as Michelle Carter, a Massachusetts woman who was convicted in 2017 of involuntary manslaughter for convincing her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to kill himself through phone calls and text messages. She was sentenced to 15 months in jail—a conviction upheld by the SJC—but was released early for good behavior.

The United States Supreme Court declined to review Carter’s appeal—which argued that her sentencing violated her First Amendment right to free speech—in January of last year. 

In an email to The Heights in February 2020, Kim said that comparisons between the two cases ignore You’s actions when she learned Urtula planned to commit suicide. According to messages released by her representatives, You sent over 120 text messages to Urtula on the day of his death begging him not to kill himself

While on the phone with Roy on the day of his death, Carter ordered Roy to get back in a truck that was filling with carbon monoxide after he had exited it. 

“The facts in Carter that led to the SJC’s opinion are completely the opposite of what happened in the facts surrounding Alex Urtula’s suicide, and this prosecution is a complete radical expansion of the Carter doctrine as well as a complete departure from four centuries of established case law governing homicide,” Kim said in the 2020 email to The Heights. 

The Heights was unable to reach the University for comment by the time of publication.

Amy Palmer contributed to reporting. 

Update 12/23/21 10:31 p.m.: This article has been updated to include information about You’s maximum sentence if the case had proceeded to trial.

Featured Image Courtesy of the Urtula Family via Suffolk DA’s office and Annie Corrigan / Heights Editor

December 23, 2021