Bail reduced for man accused in pepper spray attack

July 23, 2010 1:46:38 PM PDT
A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge today reduced bail for a Vietnamese activist accused of attacking a musician with pepper spray at a concert in Santa Clara last weekend, but also signed a protective order prohibiting him from contacting the musician.

More than 100 people showed up today, packing inside the courtroom and spilling outside the Hall of Justice, in support of 61-year-old San Jose resident and prominent Vietnamese anti-communist crusader Ly Tong.

On Sunday, Tong was arrested at the Santa Clara Convention Center for allegedly attacking musician Dam Vinh Hung with pepper spray while dressed as a woman, according to police.

Police believe the assault was politically motivated.

Tong was arraigned Wednesday on four felony counts - unauthorized use of tear gas, altering the label of tear gas, willful employment of tear gas in public, and second-degree burglary - and one misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office has since added an additional felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon.

With the amended charges, Tong could face six years and eight months in prison, district attorney's office spokeswoman Amy Cornell said.

Tong is being held at Santa Clara County's main jail.

Today, his attorney, Tam Nguyen, argued that Tong's bail, which had been set at $100,000, was too high and was likely due to "overblown publicity."

Prosecutor Johnny Gogo countered that Tong did not have any qualms about injuring bystanders to make a point.

"The defendant has victimized innocent members of the public in this case when he used pepper spray in a confined space," Gogo said.

Judge Gilbert Brown said he was not concerned so much about Tong's flight risk as much as with the protection of the public.

"I think he perhaps protested too much, to quote Shakespeare," Brown said.

He reduced bail to $75,000 and signed a protective order prohibiting Tong from having any personal, written, or electronic contact with Hung. The order, which is effective for a year, also bans Tong from coming within 300 feet of the singer.

Brown ordered Tong to return for a plea entry hearing on Aug. 4.


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