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Deadlocked Jury Forces Mistrial in Kidnap Case

June 27, 2001|STEVE BERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge declared a mistrial Tuesday after a jury deadlocked in deliberating the fate of a 31-year-old man accused of kidnapping a San Marino boy last year and holding him for $1.5 million in ransom.

Judge Lance Ito gave prosecutors until July 12 to decide whether to retry Kei Chang, one of seven people originally charged in the case. The jury, which stood at 9 to 3 in favor of not guilty, could not reach a unanimous decision.

"It's a bittersweet victory, because I would like to have had a unanimous verdict," said Alex Kessel, Chang's attorney. "He [Chang] is happy because a majority favored not guilty, but he's unhappy because he will have to stay in jail awaiting a new trial."

Chang's bail is $1 million.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Marian Thompson could not be reached for comment.

The victim, 3-year-old Ernest Chan, was kidnapped on March 20, 2000, after two masked intruders armed with knives broke into his parents' $1-million home and took him from the housekeeper. The boy was found unharmed two weeks later in an apartment on Duarte Avenue in southeast Los Angeles.

Kessel said one juror explained that the jury had trouble believing the testimony of a key prosecution witness, Thom "Moon" Huynh, 28, of Alhambra, who has admitted his role in the kidnapping and has been cooperating with authorities. He faces up to 14 years in prison.

Prosecutors charged that Huynh and Chang orchestrated the kidnapping.

Last week, a separate jury convicted Lung Ly, 24, of Monterey Park of conspiracy, assault, residential burglary and other charges relating to the kidnapping. It acquitted co-defendant Paul Thim, 17.

Two suspects were sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty. Another suspect is awaiting trial.

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