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Charges dropped against 12 Hmong men accused in plot to overthrow Laotian government

January 10, 2011 |  2:47 pm

Federal prosecutors in Sacramento on Monday dropped charges against 12 Vietnam War expatriates accused of plotting to overthrow the Laotian government, officials said.

The decision follows a federal judge's November ruling to dismiss the charge that the men had violated the Neutrality Act. The ruling prompted prosecutors to reassess the case and determine that "it is not in the government's interest to continue this prosecution," according to a statement by the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento.

"Based on the totality of the circumstances in the case, the government believes, as a discretionary matter, that continued prosecution of defendants is no longer warranted," according to court documents.

U.S. Atty. Benjamin B. Wagner filed the motion in a federal court in Sacramento. It was signed by U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr.

"While some defense attorneys have raised claims of misconduct, I believe the case was investigated and prosecuted properly and professionally," Wagner said in a statement. "The decision to seek dismissal of this case was not the result of any alleged misconduct by any government employee. The agents and attorneys who worked on this case have done so with honor and good faith."

In 2007, the men were indicted for allegedly conspiring to acquire $10 million in weapons and recruit mercenaries to take offensive action against the communist regime in the Southeast Asian country of Laos.

Many of the men were members of California's Hmong community and fought for the United States during the Vietnam War and were believed to have violated the Neutrality Act, which prohibits people in the U.S. from engaging in any military action against the government of another nation with which the U.S. is at peace.

The motion to dismiss follows last week's death of 81-year-old Vang Pao, a Hmong leader who was a key ally of the United States during the Vietnam War. Pao was believed to be the ringleader of the scheme to launch a coup and had been dismissed from the case in 2009 while two other defendants were added.


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