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Former USF professor sentenced to probation

His mugshot was sprawled across the cover page of local publications and he lost his job in the College of Marine Sciences after being accused of burglary and battery. However, former USF professor Qingnong Xiao has received some reprieve.

He will not go to jail.

Instead, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Steven Stephens sentenced Xiao to three years of probation Monday.

According to an article in the St. Petersburg Times, Stephens said he didn’t see Xiao as a threat to society and was still unclear about what happened the night Xiao was arrested.

Xiao was arrested on terms of false imprisonment in May 2010, and was later sentenced with two counts of battery, one which was later dismissed, and one count of burglary, both of which he pled guilty to in court Monday.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, Xiao met 25-year-old Stefani Hernandez while she was walking her dogs. Hernandez said Xiao followed her to her apartment and pulled her sweater.

Xiao said in an interview with The Oracle in June that he was innocent, but pled guilty to the burglary of an unoccupied structure and to lesser misdemeanor battery in court.

“I did not do burglary and battery, no touch or grab,” he said. “The only evidence is what she said. It is not the truth. It is unfair.”

Xiao was dismissed in May after the details of his case became known to USF.

USF Spokesman Michael Hoad, who said he did not wish to comment on anything that could potentially affect Xiao’s future, said in an interview with The Oracle in June that Xiao approached the University with the details of his arrest voluntarily.

College of Marine Science Dean Jacqueline Dixon, who could not be reached for comment, spoke on his behalf in court, according to the Times. She said in an interview with The Oracle in June that she supported the University’s decision to terminate Xiao’s employment, though he had been valuable to the college.

“While I support the decision, it doesn’t lessen my sadness at seeing the tragic consequences to the career of a promising young scientist,” she said.

– Reporting by Divya Kumar