SANTA ANA — An identical twin whose plot to kill her sister made headlines around the world sobbed uncontrollably Friday as a judge sentenced her to 26 years to life in prison.
Despite her emotional, last-minute protest of innocence, Jeen "Gina" Han, 24, dubbed "the evil twin," received the maximum sentence.
"It is obvious Miss Han is a danger to society, particularly her own family," said Orange County Superior Court Judge Eileen C. Moore. "All of her family have been victims of her crimes."
Han and two teenagers were convicted in November of conspiracy to commit murder and other crimes for the 1996 attack on Sunny Han and her then-roommate, Helen Kim. The young women were bound and gagged in their Irvine apartment moments before police burst in to rescue them.
The twins, who were co-valedictorians of their high school class in Campo, 40 miles east of San Diego, had become estranged in recent years. By November 1996, Jeen was convinced that Sunny had some of her belongings and wouldn't return them. A murder plot, prosecutors contended, was hatched.
Co-defendants Archie Bryant, 18, and John Sayarath, 16, posed as magazine salesmen to get into Sunny Han's apartment. She was in her bedroom at the time, heard Kim scuffling with the men and used her cellular telephone to call 911. The two boys burst into her bedroom and tied her up.
Bryant, who carried a gun in the attack, was sentenced Friday to 18 years in state prison. Sayarath is expected to be sentenced to eight years, pending a decision on whether that will be in prison or a California Youth Authority facility.
The judge said she was more lenient with them because she believed Han had masterminded the scheme.
Before the judge imposed her sentence, a tearful Jeen Han addressed the court for the first time since her court proceedings began.
"I am deeply sorry for everything that has happened," she said in a soft voice. "I am truly sorry." The woman said that "despite the circumstances, I had absolutely no intent to kill my twin sister. Sunny is my flesh and blood."
Han, who was born in South Korea, also apologized to the Korean American community, which had waged a campaign for leniency in her sentencing and submitted 17,000 signatures to the court.
Han reserved her final remarks for Sunny.
"I just want my sister to know that I love her very much," she said.
Sunny Han was not at the sentencing. But their mother, Boo Kim, 49, begged the judge for leniency and cried as the sentence was announced.
During the trial, the prosecution portrayed Jeen Han as a cold schemer who wanted her sister dead. They presented evidence that in the days before the attack, Han had asked several people to help her carry out the slaying.
Attorneys for all three defendants maintained Friday that there was no murder plot among the three.
"I will never believe until the day I die that she was going to kill her sister," said Han's attorney, Roger Alexander. "I will never believe it was her intention."
Prosecutor Bruce Moore had asked for the maximum sentence for all three defendants. He declined to speak to the media after the sentencing.