SANTA ANA (AP) –– An ex-Garden Grove resident once featured on “America’s Most Wanted” was sentenced Thursday to 55 years to life in prison for gunning down a man outside a Stanton bar in 2005.
Cuong Viet Nguyen, 29, was convicted March 24 of second-degree murder for killing Tri Van Bui, but was acquitted of attempted murder in the shooting of another man.
In a letter from Bui’s wife, Linh Lam, which was read at today’s sentencing, Lam said, “Tri was vibrant, brilliant and always willing to help others. He was full of life. Family meant everything to him. My pain and suffering will never end. I wish I could turn back time — wish my companion, my love, my husband, my daughters’ father was still here with us.”
Nguyen could been sentenced to 80 years to life behind bars due to a gun use sentencing enhancement and because he has a prior conviction for robbery, according to Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh.
Baytieh had sought a first-degree murder conviction, but the jury did not think the June 26, 2005, slaying of Bui was premeditated, jury foreman Ron Frank said in March.
Nguyen and his friends got into a fight with another group, which included the 34-year-old victim, at the All Star Cafe, 12736 Beach Blvd. The fight started when someone bumped into Nguyen’s sister, Nguyen’s attorney, Jack Earley, said.
After bouncers kicked them out of the nightclub, Nguyen and another friend waited outside for Bui, Baytieh said.
When Bui finished talking to a bouncer, Nguyen and his friend chased Bui down, removed their belts and beat him with them, the prosecutor said. Then, with Bui on the ground, Nguyen shot and killed him and shot another man in the crowd, Michael Le, in the arm, Baytieh said.
Le did not testify during the trial and Nguyen was acquitted of attempting to kill him.
Nguyen disappeared after the shooting. After he was featured on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted” in the spring of 2008, authorities received a tip from someone who recognized him, and he was arrested in Phoenix that June, Baytieh said.
Earley argued that Nguyen acted in defense of himself and others because he thought he saw someone in his group being attacked outside the club.
Nguyen was convicted in 1998 of robbery, but Earley downplayed it as “aiding and abetting” the theft of some shoes.