A Boston College student made her first court appearance Friday to face charges that she encouraged her boyfriend to take his own life in what prosecutors describe as a toxic and abusive relationship.
Inyoung You, 21, pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston after prosecutors say she voluntarily returned to the U.S. from South Korea, where she has been since the charges were announced in October.
You, dressed in a white sweater and black pants, didn't speak during the morning proceedings. She was taken into custody in handcuffs after the judge set her bail at $5,000, which her lawyer said she would post immediately. You, who was born in South Korea and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, was also ordered to surrender her passport, remain in Massachusetts for the duration of the trial, and check in biweekly with the probation department.
Her trial date was set for November 2020.
Prosecutors said You and Alexander Urtula, of Cedar Grove, New Jersey, exchanged more than 75,000 texts in the last two months of their 18-month relationship, more than 47,000 of them sent by You.
They said You isolated Urtula from his friends, urged him to "go kill yourself" and called him "worthless" in a constant barrage of messages.
In court Friday, prosecutors read from some of the thousands of expletive-laden messages You sent to Urtula, many of them sent in a stream of one-word bursts and capital letters.
They also detailed how You forced Urtula to block his friends on social media and regularly monitored his location through his smartphone's GPS.
Urtula died in Boston on May 20, the day of his Boston College graduation.
During You's arraignment, prosecutors said You became upset when she found out Urtula had been communicating with an ex-girlfriend. They say that You also threatened to harm herself and that Urtula was afraid to leave her.
Earlier this week, You, through a public relations firm, released text messages suggesting she tried to stop Urtula and alerted Urtula's brother in the moments before his death.
"please baby i'm almost there please," she wrote. "please don't push me away PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME PLEASE."
Urtula responds at one point: "this is goodbye forever. I love you. This isn't your fault it's mine."
The judge issued an order Friday preventing You's lawyers from releasing more information to the public.
After Friday's proceedings, You's lawyer Steve Kim dismissed the case as a "cheap pursuit of headlines" that has wrongly portrayed his client as a "monster."
You and Urtula were "emotionally needy young adults" who both contributed to turning their relationship into a "toxic blend of need, anger, fear and love," he said.
"They lived their lives entirely on the phone in a way that many of us who are older find hard to believe," Kim said.
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins responded that You's representatives are trying to "change the narrative" around her "egregious and reckless behavior."
Urtula's relatives said they are devastated by his death.
"Since losing Alexander in May, the Urtula family and everyone who loved Alex has been devastated by his loss," the family said in a statement ahead of Friday's proceedings. "Not a minute of any day goes by without those who loved Alex grieving and continually feeling the sharp pain of his passing all over again."
The case echoes the Michelle Carter case, which garnered national headlines and an HBO film in recent years.
The young Massachusetts woman was sentenced to 15 months in jail after she was convicted in 2017 of involuntary manslaughter for using text messages and phone calls to encourage her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, him to kill himself in 2014.
Carter's lawyers maintained her texts were constitutionally protected free speech.
Her conviction was upheld by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court but has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which hasn't yet decided whether it will take up the case.
If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting 'Home' to 741741.