Wednesday, April 23, 2003
C.A. Affirms Convictions in ‘Asian Boyz’ Gang Killing Spree
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
The Court of Appeal for this district has affirmed the convictions of seven local gang members for multiple homicides arising from four separate incidents in the spring and summer of 1995.
Presiding Justice Charles Vogel, in an unpublished opinion Monday for Div. Four, rejected several evidentiary, instructional and constitutional objections raised by the defendants, all affiliated with the Asian Boyz gang.
Their 1998 trial was held in Van Nuys under tight security. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp and the prosecutors were provided with armed guards after the father of a gang-member-turned-prosecution-witness was murdered at his Northern California home shortly before the witness was to testify.
Jurors convicted the defendants, in various combinations, of six murders, eight attempted murders, and three conspiracies to commit murder.
Jurors were unable to reach verdicts as to other charges, but five of the defendants were convicted of multiple-murder and/or lying-in-wait special circumstances, and prosecutors sought the death penalty for four of them. Jurors deadlocked in the penalty phase, however, and all of the defendants were sentenced to life terms, five of them without the possibility of parole.
The Asian Boyz are, despite their name, a multiethnic gang linked primarily to violent crimes in the San Fernando Valley. Their weapons of choice, police and prosecutors said, included assault rifles and handguns.
Defendants whose appeals were rejected Monday were Bunthoeun Roeung, Sothi Menh, David Evangalista, Roatha Buth, Son Thanh Bui, Kimorn Nuth, and Ky Tony Ngo.
Among the incidents for which they were sentenced was an attack on members of the Valerio Street gang, which claimed the Valerio Gardens Apartments in the area of Valerio Street and Van Nuys Boulevard as its turf even though several Asian Boyz lived there.
Witnesses testified that Roeung, Menh, Buth, Bui, and Nuth chased several members of the rival gang, shooting at least three of them. Two died after being shot as they attempted to climb a fence, then shot again after they fell to the ground, according to the testimony.
The other three shootings were drive-bys, one an attack on members of the Wa Ching gang on I-10 in the San Gabriel Valley.
Part of the case for the prosecution was a videotape in which several gang members, including two of the defendants, boasted about the Valerio Street and I-10 shootings. Vogel, writing for the Court of Appeal, rejected the defense contention that the tape should have been suppressed.
The presiding justice said the search was reasonable because the police had a valid warrant. “[T]he supporting facts that the residence was a gang crash pad and gang members frequently keep records of their crimes provided particularized grounds to believe that evidence of gang membership of the type described would be located therein,” Vogel wrote.
The jurist also rejected a challenge to the admission of expert testimony on Asian gangs. The evidence was properly considered, Vogel said, to explain the rivalries between the Asian Boyz and other gangs and the nature of gang warfare.
Vogel also rejected challenges to the sentences, including a claim by Roeung that his life-without-parole sentence for three murders, two at Valerio Gardens and one in a drive-by, constituted cruel or unusual punishment.
Roeung’s appellate lawyer, Janyce K.I. Blair, argued that the sentence was excessive because the jury did not find that he personally used a firearm and he was thus merely an aider and abettor.
Vogel said the sentence was appropriate because Roeung shared his co-defendants’ intentions even if he did not fire a fatal shot. The evidence, the presiding justice explained, was that at Valerio Gardens, Roeung carried a shotgun and chased the victims, and that in the drive-by, he was a willing participant who had earlier discussed with his comrades which rivals they ought to shoot.
Appellate lawyers, besides Blair, included Christine Vento for Menh, John Steinberg for Evangelista, Mark D. Lenenberg for Buth, Charlotte E. Costan for Bui, Ralph H. Goldsen for Ngo and David H. Goodwin for Nuth. All were court-appointed.
The state was represented by Deputy Attorneys General Robert F. Katz, John R. Gorey and David C. Cook.
The case is People v. Roeung, B132070.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company