In concurrent court hearings happening at the county and federal courthouses in downtown Fresno, five of the seven suspects accused of the Nov. 17 shooting that left four dead, 10 wounded and rocked Fresno and the nation, entered pleas of not guilty.
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Adding to details GV Wire reported from the federal complaint, the criminal case filed by the Fresno County District Attorney’s office reveals specific roles each suspect played in the slayings of 23-year-old Xy Lee, 31-year-old Phia Vang, 38-year-old Kou Xiong, and 40-year-old Kalaxang Thao.
Suspects Enter Pleas
Four men each face state charges on four counts of murder, 12 counts of attempted murder, as well as gang and gun charges. District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said the four could face death penalty charges, if not life in prison.
According to KSEE 24, — 26-year old Porge Kue, 27-year old Anthony Montes, and 25-year old Billy Xiong entered not guilty pleas. Bail is set at $23 million for each of the men. They will return to court Feb. 11.
The fourth suspect, 27-year old Ger Lee, did not appear in court. He is in custody in a Sherburne County, Minnesota jail following his arrest by local authorities on Dec. 31.
Federal Case Moves Forward
Three other suspects — 19-year old Jhovanny Delgado-Marcelo, 30-year old Pao Choua Vang, and 25-year old Johnny Xiong — face federal conspiracy charges. They each face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Delgado-Marcelo and Johnny Xiong entered not guilty pleas. They return to federal court next Wednesday (Jan. 8 at 2 p.m.) for a hearing to determine if they should remain in jail pending trial.
Vang had not yet been assigned an attorney and did not enter a plea. A potential public defender had a conflict related to the state case. Judge Sheila Oberto continued Vang’s appearance until Monday at 2 p.m.
The three men in federal court appeared in red jump suits, shackled by their arms and legs. Oberto asked them if they understood the charges against them, and that they could be eligible for a public attorney.
(GV Wire/Alexis DeSha)
Attorney: My Job is to Salvage Lives
Johnny Xiong’s family hired attorneys Robert Lamanuzzi and Gerald Schwab for his defense. Lamanuzzi thinks being in federal court helps his client.
“It does have the possibility to change for the worse, depending on how this case progresses. Given my client’s lack of criminality and minimal involvement in this case, it is a great benefit to him facing much more reduced charges,” Lamanuzzi said.
Lamanuzzi said his job is to salvage lives.
“I don’t think he is what you would classify as a gangbanger,” Lamanuzzi said. “Some kids growing up in certain neighborhoods associate with other kids that are up to no good.”
Benjamin Gerson from the federal public defender’s office is representing Delgado-Marcelo.
Tom Newman is the federal prosecutor assigned to the case.
Ger Lee The Alleged Ringleader
All seven suspects are allegedly Mongolian Boys Society gang members.
Fresno police announced the arrest of six suspects for the shootings on Tuesday, with the motive pegged as gang retaliation. The criminal complaints revealed a seventh suspect, Lee — arrested by U.S. Marshals in Minnesota and pending extradition to California.
According to the DA complaint, Lee — nickname “Stomper” — organized a meeting of the MBS gang around 4 p.m. at a home on East Pitt Avenue on Nov. 17 to plan a retaliation for the killing earlier that morning of 28-year old Randy Xiong at an apartment complex at on E. Dwight Avenue in Fresno.
The complaint said Xiong was the brother and roomate of a MBS member identified as “Deuce.”
Lee blamed the rival Asian Crips gang for Xiong’s death, investigators said, and assigned roles to fellow MBS members in carrying out the attack.
Billy Xiong (aka “B.G.”) would drive Montes (aka “Montana”) and Kue (aka “Slick”) to the home on E. Lamona Avenue, where a party was taking place. The district attorney identified Montes and Kue as the shooters.
Others Serve as Lookouts
Others served as lookouts in their vehicles in the surrounding area.
According to the DA complaint, Lee rode with Johnny Xiong, and positioned themselves at McKinley and Peach avenues. This information conflicts with information in the federal complaint that said Xiong was stationed at an AM/PM gas station at Clovis and Olive avenues, and had his wife in the car.
The federal complaint also said that Delgado-Marcelo (aka “Jhio”) drove with another unidentified passenger. The DA’s complaint added he parked at Clovis and Olive.
Vang (aka “Clownsy”) drove alone, parking at Olive and Peach.
After the shooting, the seven suspects allegedly regrouped at the Pitt Avenue home, where Lee ordered them not to discuss the shooting.
Gang Retaliation Was Motive
Although police said none of the victims had gang ties, in an interview with police described in the federal complaint, Johnny Xiong said that didn’t matter.
“Xiong said that the victims did not have to be ‘gangsters’ per se, and that ‘one of [the] sons’ or ‘at least one person’ of the family who lived in the home is ‘affiliated,’ ” the complaint said. “Xiong did not know who was an AC (Asian Crips) affiliate but knew that the person was not one of the victims. Xiong stated that another innocent bystander ‘took [the AC affiliate’s] bullet for him.”
Read the District Attorney Complaint