The attorney of a Vietnamese comedian charged with child molestation will tell the judge at a pretrial hearing in the U.S. on Friday that evidence presented by the prosecution against his client is unclear.
Lawyer Do Phu will defend Hong Quang Minh, aka Minh Beo, during the pretrial process at the Superior Court of California, West Justice Center, in Westminster on Friday morning (U.S. time) before judge Derek J. Johnson.
The 38-year-old Vietnamese entertainer was arrested on March 24 in the U.S. on three felony counts, including oral copulation of a minor, and has since been in custody at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange County, California. He pled not guilty at an April 15 arraignment.
Phu obtained the indictment against Minh Beo and believes the prosecutor’s case rests on shaky grounds and the evidence presented is unclear, he told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Thursday.
The attorney said he will focus on the text messages exchanged between Minh Beo and undercover police which lead to the felony count of meeting with a minor with the intent to engage in lewd conduct.
According to the case file, on March 20, Minh Beo was accused of speaking to a group of dancers at a talent show held at a radio station in Huntington Beach and telling the dancers that he was hosting auditions for a video project.
Three days later, the Vietnamese was alleged to orally copulate minor 'John Doe 1,' when the victim arrived for the audition.
John Doe 1 immediately reported the crime to the Garden Grove Police Department (GGPD), who began investigating the case.
On March 24, an undercover GGPD officer posing as a minor under the age of 14 communicated with the defendant via text message.
Minh was then accused of attempting to set up a meeting with the officer with the intent of committing a sexual assault through the exchanged text messages.
Lawyer Do Phu said these messages were written in unaccented Vietnamese, which can “easily lead to misunderstanding a certain issue in a sensitive way, given the nature of the Vietnamese language.”
“Moreover, as the undercover police officer is a Vietnamese American, what needs to be clarified at this hearing is his proficiency in Vietnamese and understanding of Vietnamese culture,” he said.
“It should be made clear whether his command [of the language and culture] is adequate enough to be used as a ground to find Minh Beo guilty.”
Photo: Ngoc Lan
The pretrial hearing is expected to last 30 minutes, according to the attorney.
Minh Beo is being held on US$1 million bail, a sum the lawyer hopes to have reduced.
“For similar cases in the U.S., the bail is usually set from $50,000 to $100,000. $1 million is just too high and unaffordable for a foreigner like Minh Beo,” he said.
“I will argue to the court that under the strict monitoring rules of the U.S., it is impossible for Minh Beo to flee once released on bail.
“California police will be notified immediately once he leaves Little Saigon and he cannot get out of the U.S. once his passport is held by the court.”
Lawyer Do Phu said so long as Minh Beo is not convicted, people should not treat him as a criminal.
“He and his family are under serious pressure during this time of crisis. We hope the public will stay calm to avoid attacking him with offensive comments,” he said.
The lawyer said he has visited his client, finding him “in quite good health condition,” even though he remains unfamiliar with American food.
Do Phu said he will “try all possible ways” to prove his client innocent, but admitted that at the coming pretrial hearing he may have to settle for negotiating a more lenient sentence with prosecutors for Minh Beo.
The defendant is scheduled to stand for a preliminary hearing on June 10.