TAIPEI, Taiwan - The Taipei District Court yesterday ruled that truck driver Chang Teh-cheng was allowed to return home for Chinese New Year's Eve dinner with his family after prosecutors applied to detain the driver.
Chang Teh-cheng, 41, had driven his 35-ton gravel truck into the main gate of the Presidential Office building last Saturday, injuring no one but himself. The truck hit the main gate of the Presidential Office building at around 5:05 a.m. and careened up the steps, with sentries moving out of the way just in time.
President Ma Ying-jeou praised the quick actions of the sentries, and commanding officer Wu Ying-ping awarded the sentries with commemorative watches for their services.
Chang was taken to National Taiwan University Hospital immediately after the incident, and declined to speak when he was being taken to court yesterday in a wheelchair.
Chang's attorney accused local media outlets of "demonizing" the defendant. The court had previously rejected the prosecutors' application to detain Chang. The prosecutors immediately filed for an appeal.
Before his shocking manoeuvre, Chang had posted multiple times on Facebook his plans to run into the Presidential Office and the Taipei District Court; he had said that he would crash his truck into the Presidential Office in the early morning when there is little traffic and few pedestrians near the building. Chang was reportedly furious over a court decision that sentenced him to 40 days behind bars after he was convicted of domestic violence. The messages were not taken seriously until Saturday.
Following the incident, a letter from Chang to a local TV station was aired, saying that if his act caused any deaths, he is willing to be sentenced to death, or to serve a life sentence if there were none. The letter had been delivered before Chang drove his truck into the Presidential Office. Chang also claimed that he had initially wished to drive his truck into the Taipei District Court but failed.
'Yay, going home!'
"What the court is supposed to decide today is whether the defendant should be detained, not whether he is guilty or not," said the attorney, surnamed Tseng.
The prosecutors have to supply evidence that Chang had tried to escape after he drove his truck into the Presidential Office; they cannot pronounce Chang guilty just because he refused to answer during the interrogation, said Tseng. "All of this is against the law."
Several local media outlets had reported that Chang said "yay, going home!" upon hearing the court's sentence, a statement that Tseng refuted fiercely. "I can tell all of you that, given his physical condition yesterday, it was impossible for him to say 'yay.' This is not true. We don't know who spread (the rumours,) but we believe that it was not the media who made this up," said Tseng.
The lawyer also refuted reports that Chang had refused to cooperate in the interrogations held on the night of his drive. "The defendant had filed a record with the police and said everything clearly. He did not refuse to cooperate with the police."