Interview With Terrence Howard’s Ex, Who Says He Punched Her

May Seng Yang on her relationship with Oprah’s Butler co-star.

On May 6, 2012, police arrived at the suburban Philadelphia home of actor Terrence Howard, co-star of The Butler, due to an altercation that occurred between Howard and his ex-girlfriend, Plymouth Meeting’s May Seng Yang (pictured), one of at least six violent altercations that Howard is alleged to have had with women since 2000.

Yang told police that Howard choked her, pushed her to the ground and punched her (scroll to the bottom of this Q&A for the complete statement she gave to police). But based on statements made by Howard and his then-current girlfriend Erica Taylor, who was present during the fight, Yang was the one charged with crimes.

Those charges were later dropped, and Howard reportedly agreed to pay Yang $75,000 to keep quiet about that day, which she confirms. On Thursday, I spoke with Yang at length about her relationship with Howard. Below, her side of that story, and her opinions about her ex-lover. Attempts to reach Howard’s attorney and publicist were unsuccessful.

It’s been quite the week for Terrence. There’s a new report about him getting evicted from his apartment in New York.
Yes, I’ve just recently talked to him. It’s been a strange situation. He’s in a very serious financial position. That’s the funny thing about him. He’s so bright. He’s truly talented, even beyond acting. Self-taught musician, pianist, plays guitar. He writes his own music. He’s made a substantial amount of wealth as well, but he has personal issues involving it.

You said you just spoke with him. When?
Over the weekend. I actually knew about the situation in Costa Rica, because I know Michelle, and she’s remained in contact with me. Long story short, she reached out to me when she got back to L.A., letting me know that she had some concerns about his state of being. And then, lo and behold, I find out she filed that restraining order. And then shortly after, he contacted me. For him, it’s indicative of his personality, he failed to indicate he had done anything wrong. He says he tried to defend himself. I know him well. I can understand and take both versions. There are two sides to every story.

That’s true, there are. And when I first heard about the black eye, I thought, well, this is a divorce, and we all know that sometimes people in high-profile positions are lied about to get something in return. I get that. But then you look at it and say, so is the 2000 incident a lie? Is the 2001 incident a lie? Is the 2005 incident a lie? Is the 2011 incident a lie? Is the 2012 incident a lie? Is the 2013 incident a lie…? You have to wonder if this isn’t a person with a problem of violence against women.
I would definitely have the same standpoint that you’re expressing. There is a very core problematic issue with his behavior. He’s an egomaniac, and that fuels a lot of his energy and angst. There’s a very negative side.

Does he have a good side?
He definitely does. But there’s a huge amount of stress, and it’s the stress he’s created that has propelled a lot of this. A lot has been his own doing and wrongdoing and undoing. The incident that happened between he and I happened to be because — excuse my language — he’s been fucking around with a lot of women throughout his entire career. For any one person to be angry, they are justified. And he has serious anger issues. All of that has led to his physical acting out, and it does happen to be toward women. But on the exterior, you would never suspect that he had that side. But on the inside, he’s very aggressive, and he’s not shy about expressing that type of anger.

How did you meet him?
I met him actually near a local pizzeria near Panera. It was very casual. He was eating inside with his kids. He was separated from Lori at the time, because she found out he was cheating. I went in to pick up a pizza, a conversation started, and one thing led to another, and then a sexual relationship that carried into an 11- or 12-year relationship, an on-and-off-again kind of thing.

So, May, why were you arrested that day, if you say that he’s the one who attacked you?
At the time, the bruises I sustained weren’t very visible. I mean, it was 11 at night. And I wasn’t bleeding, but I was harmed. And he had his girlfriend there, Erica, to corroborate his story. I guess he had some scratch on his face, and they associated that with me attacking him. My version against his and hers.

Was that the first time he ever raised his hand to you?
Yes, it was. It really was. It left me speechless. I had had many heated arguments with him, but I’d walk away before anything happened. So I didn’t expect that to happen that day at all. He does have a tendency to be loud, raise his voice, talk in a threatening manner. That happened on numerous occasions. But on the one day in 2012, he was angry enough to attack me.

And what is your relationship with him like now?
Strangely enough, it’s amicable. There’s no animosity. He’s been as pleasant as his usual self towards me. I would say he doesn’t see me as a personal threat.

A lot of women — and men — would read this and say that you should have ditched him the minute he attacked you.
I know. It seems completely off. But in my own position, there has been a long-term quote, unquote friendship. And for that reason, it’s been an investment enough that I continued to speak with him. There’s a long-term connection between he and I. I realize that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to those on the outside.

Does he need help?
Yes. Anybody over 21 has a certain amount of baggage. He has way more than the usual person. It would definitely be in his interest and those around him to get real help. He’s also carried himself in a way that’s really deceiving. He’s obviously a public person. When you have a little bit of that platform, when you act and say one thing and behind the scenes are a totally different person, that can be a problem. He has a dual personality. He’s been very harmful. I know there are numerous other women who have been in distress because of him. With he and Michelle, it happened to turn into a physical outcome. But he definitely needs professional help. He’s very insightful and perceptive to that. He’s not unaware. He calls back and apologizes. I realize this is very textbook behavior of an abusive man. But he is always apologetic, he says that he would never be that kind of person. Which would be a lie. Because he is.

Is there hope for him?
Yes, I would like to believe there is. He is in the process of working out these types of obstacles, dealing with this behavior. And when a person wants to try, there’s always an inkling of hope. It will be a lifelong effort. Not a quick fix.

So, are you afraid of Terrence Howard?
Yes and no. He’s a very obsessive person. He can be very possessive. When he’s determined, he’s relentless. There are times when he’s not left me alone. But a fear of him harming me? Not so much. But, yes in some ways, because he’s the type where you say, “let’s call it a break, don’t reach out, don’t call me,” [but] it doesn’t get very far with him. He completely undermines that. The boundaries. He doesn’t follow.

Why are you talking to me today? Doesn’t this violate your non-disclosure with him?
I have an attorney and we are working on the financial arrangement.

Are you saying that the non-disclosure is void because he hasn’t paid you?
Yes, it is void. It’s been breached.

Breached because he hasn’t paid you?
Yes.

Below is the written statement that May Seng Yang provided to Whitemarsh Township Police on May 6, 2012. In some cases, punctuation was added for clarity.

Terrence Howard contacted me to let me know he would be at his home this weekend May 5-6, 2012. He said he would call to let me know what time he would be around.

I didn’t hear from him all weekend, so I stopped by his home. I rang the doorbell twice. Then this woman comes out, says, “Can I help you?” I said I was stopping by to see Terrence and she asked me who I was. I said May and she said, “May Seng?” She said, “I’m his girlfriend, Erica, and he told me all about you.

We had a 5-10 min. conversation about me and Terrence. I said OK. I was standing outside the gate, and he came outside smoking a cigarette. Then said, “What are you doing here? This is my girlfriend and I told you not to come by.”

I said you just talked to me two weeks ago, I just saw you about a month ago. He got angry and started calling me a bitch and said I told you to leave me alone. He walked in the house. I was still talking to Erica about me and Terrence.

She continued to explain to me why I should just stop talking to him and told me how he told her that he was using me all this time, and I continued to explain to her the money and gifts that he had given me and all the compliments he said to me in the ten years I’ve known him.

I explained to her that he was much nicer and kinder to me when of course no one else was there. And the numerous times I have seen him at his house on several occasions in the ten years that he would keep calling me and asking to see me.

Then she proceeded to explain the issues he had with me, and I told her it was issues he had about his sexual perversion. We continued to talk calmly for a few more minutes. Terrence came to the gate again. He opened the gate and then came towards me with a lot of anger.

I took a few steps backwards toward the sidewalk. He then grabbed me with his hands and choked the right side of my neck. Then pushed me to the ground. As I was on the ground, he then smacked me across the face and hit my left eye with his fist.

I tried to get up and had my iPhone in my hand. I threatened to call the cops. Before he came and attacked me, I was going to leave. I was trying to explain to him that I was not trying to start trouble, and I wasn’t being violent. I was just trying to explain my side to Erica.

He had said, “Fuck this. I’m going to jail for this tonight.”

After I tried to call 911, he grabbed my phone and threw it to the ground. It did not break, and I saw him [pick up] the phone after I got up the second time he pushed me to the sidewalk and tried to hit me again.

I ran across the street to the neighbor’s house, knocked on their door and called 911 from their phone. They allowed me to come in. I was shaking and apologized for disrupting, but I needed to use their phone (because Terrence had grabbed my phone and tried to break it).

I waited inside the neighbor’s house. They asked me what happened. I got into a fight with Terrence. They asked me if I was OK. I said not really.

Then the cops showed up. I talked to ambulance techs. I didn’t think I needed a stop to ER. But I told them that he hit my left eye, that it was throbbing, and he choked me. I wasn’t bleeding, so I said no, I did not need to go to the hospital.

Waited till the officers came back. I told them Terrence grabbed my phone and to see if it was around. I said I was trying to call the cops, and he took my phone and tried to smash it on the driveway, but it didn’t break.

He grabbed the phone and took it inside his house. While Terrence was hitting me and shoved me to the ground, Erica, his girlfriend, stood there and watched.

They both went back inside the house until the cops came. The cops tried to search for my phone and could not find it. The reasons I stopped by is because Terrence has contacted me throughout the ten years and for the issues he has felt bad in hurting my feelings and for his behavior and the times he had not been honest. And throughout the years that I’ve known him.

The numerous times he called me while he was seeing other women and him feeling bad when I told him he gave me herpes, which he then told me had contracted from his previous relationship. I felt I had a reason to talk to him.

He has not been threatening before. I didn’t expect him to be violent towards me. There were several occasions I stayed at his house and because we knew each other this long, and he would call me whenever he was home to let me know that he wanted to see me. How he would call my phone numerous times til I would see him.

He has said many times he has issues, and he is not a “right” person. I became very sympathetic towards him over the years that I knew him. I had stopped by his house before, and he has let me in. We would talk and the occasions were civil with no issues.

I did not personally know Terrence Howard to be this violent. I only heard the accounts he had in past relationships and did not see a angry and or violent side. I read about his reports of domestic issues from his ex Michelle, and she would try to explain that she had proof of his violent behavior, and I did not really think he could be like that.

In our relationship, rapport, he has also stopped by my home unannounced and forced his way into my apartment. Even when I have told him not to. I did not hit Terrence in the face, and have never had a violent behavior towards anyone.

The rapport we had through known him — I made the assumption that he was going to be OK with it. I did not realize his girlfriend was there. And when I tried to talk, that is when he became defensive and attacked me, which is previously stated.

And here is a supplemental statement May Seng Yang provided to police:

I am including additional statements because I was wrongfully charged on Sunday 5/6/12. I noticed additional bruises that I sustained after having a verbal confrontation with Terrence Howard and after he attacked and assaulted me. I had a bruising on my right knee and a small bruise on my right hip.

And because of the incident and being arrested for which I did not hit and/or attack Terrence, I was not able to return to work on Monday 5/7/12.

I am still in emotional and physical and mental distress from this.

I had to purchase another iPhone because he took my phone after I said I was going to call the cops when he attacked me. The injuries I sustained are not life threatening but I was a victim on 5/6/12 and to be physically attacked by another adult has been traumatizing.

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • thegreatcorntrollio

    This guy is an OJ waiting to happen.