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Orange county gang member gets life in prison for 2004 murder

April 30, 2012 |  3:45 pm

A gang member convicted of opening fire in a crowded Cypress cafe, killing a 22-year-old woman and injuring several others, has been sentenced to life in prison, the Orange County district attorney's office said Monday.

Stephenson Choi Kim, 31, was found guilty of one count of murder and six counts of attempted murder for the 2004 shooting, in which he was accused of firing at a table where Venus Hyun, 22, was sitting with six friends. Jurors found to be true special circumstance allegations that Kim committed the crime as part of a criminal street gang. Kim was also convicted of a count of felony street terrorism.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty against Kim, but jurors deadlocked during the penalty phase of the trial, in which they were shown evidence of a confession letter found on Kim’s computer and a jailhouse note from him about "making sure the witnesses don’t testify." They were split 7 to 5 in favor of the death penalty.

At the time of the shooting, Kim was with six other gang members who all pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and testified against him. Co-defendants Robin Kim 29, Christopher Ung, 28, Wilson Sun, 29, Chakris Kanchanapoomi, 28, Ashil Manek Nair, 27, and Glenn Lamuel Watkins, 25, received sentences between six to 11 years in state prison.

According to prosecutors, Kim and the other gang members had piled into several cars, carrying firearms and looking to fight rival gang members, when they arrived at 5th Wave Cafe in Cypress in March 2004.

Nair and Watkins first went into the cafe and asked Hyun and her friends if they were connected to the gang; one man at the table said he "didn’t bang anymore." Kim then entered the cafe, shot at the people at Hyun's table and fled through a back door, prosecutors contended at trial.

In addition to Hyun, who was shot in the back, four others suffered gunshot wounds.

ALSO:

Michigan man arrested in 1991 San Bernardino County murder

Deputy who tried to smuggle heroin in burrito pleads no contest

68 arrested in alleged San Bernardino County cockfighting ring

-- Victoria Kim

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