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Gang killed fellow member after he fled robbery, prosecutors say

March 7, 2012 |  1:13 pm

Gang members face murder trial

This post has been updated. See below for details.

The trial of four alleged gang members who prosecutors said killed a fellow gang member in 1995 in retaliation for abandoning them during a robbery is expected to begin Thursday.

The alleged members of Viets for Life, Anthony Paul Johnson, 35, Giang Thuy Nguyen, 36, Tam Hung Nguyen, 36, and Truc Ngoc Tran, 34, are each charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder and if convicted face life in prison without the possibility of parole, prosecutors said.

According to prosecutors Johnson, known as "whiteboy," Giang Nguyen, known as "yang" and Viet Nguyen, forced their way into the Huntington Beach home of a classmate of Viet Nguyen's to rob it in February 1995. At some point, Viet Nguyen fled, believing he had been recognized by someone in the home.

Later that day, the defendants met and plotted to kill Viet Nguyen for leaving and to prevent him from implicating others, prosecutors said.

The next day, Johnson and Giang Nguyen convinced Viet Nguyen to drive to Costa Mesa with Tam Nguyen, who was called "dopeman," to buy drugs. Truc Tran followed behind in a separate car, prosecutors said.

During the drive, Tam Nguyen pretended to be sick and they pulled over to the side of the road.

Tam Nguyen then allegedly pulled out a .45 caliber semiautomatic and shot Viet Nguyen in the back of the head. Tran picked Tam Nguyen up after the shooting, prosecutors said.

The defendants told other members of the gang that Viet Nguyen was killed by a drug dealer in Costa Mesa and the case went cold until 2006, when the Costa Mesa Police Department and the Orange County district attorney's office began re-investigating.

[Updated at 3:30 p.m.: An attorney for Tam Nguyen said his client is innocent and will be found not guilty at trial.

"He wasn’t even there," said Michael Khouri. One of the main witnesses in the case, Khouri said, “has admittedly lied to the police for decades.”

Nguyen is a father who was working at a manufacturing company in Minnesota before he was arrested and extradited to California, he said.]

Opening statements in the case are expected to begin Thursday at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.


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-- Paloma Esquivel

Photo: From left, Anthony Paul Johnson, Giang Nguyen, Tam Hung Nguyen and Truc Ngoc Tran are accused of killing a fellow gang member. Credit: Orange County district attorney's office