by Lauren Zaren
The jury was unable to come to a verdict, with 11 jurors finding Tony Dang not guilty, while one found him guilty on both counts. The hung jury persisted even after they returned to the deliberation room for an additional half hour. Judge Janene Beronio called a mistrial and dismissed the jury members. A date for a new trial was not given.
Previous: Man On Trial for Attack on Davis Police Service Specialist
By Sufi Sadati
Almost as quick as the injury occurred, the swift trial of Tony Dang, accused of assault with a deadly weapon and a battery charge upon a police service specialist, was heard in Department 10.
Opening statements by the district attorney’s office painted a picture of April 21, 2018, Picnic Day, in the city of Davis. Around 11:00 am at the intersection of Russell Boulevard and University Avenue is where “A.B.”, a police service specialist who was instructed to regulate traffic, was allegedly purposefully hit by Mr. Dang’s vehicle.
The defense spoke on behalf of Mr. Dang, arguing the case was simply a misunderstanding gone wrong. Originally from Vietnam, the defendant had an interpreter present due to language barriers, barriers the defense argued played a factor in a chaotic and confusing day. Defense insisted, “What you will see is a busy day, a language barrier and a miscommunication.”
Alex Torres, a corporal with the Davis Police Department and who worked with the victim for over five years, was assigned to the case. His closeness with the victim made him take the victim’s account at face value, never stopping to ask whether it could have been an accident. When she returned to the police department an hour later and casually talked about someone trying to hit her during her shift, A.B. noted she banged on the front of the car as it approached her.
Extracting a description from the victim, the corporal noted a 45 to 50-year-old Asian male with a memorable haircut driving a white two-door vehicle. There was also a picture taken of a license plate by another person which added to the total description of the potential suspect.
Cpl. Torres used this description to create a photo lineup. Traditionally that is six pictures generated by computer programming of individuals who match the complaining party’s description. Audio/video played of the body cam used on Officer Torres’ person showed him displaying each picture to the victim one at a time, forward and backward. A.B. successfully identified the suspect as Tony Dang.
He specifically mentioned she was not to speak with anyone else about the photo lineup or the case.
Making contact with Mr. Dang, he examined the vehicle that matched the description, however, he found no signs of fingerprints or even an indication the “dirty” car’s dust had been touched recently.
Cpl. Torres made the assertion that the defendant could fully understand him, since he answered his questions at the time. However, the defense wittily questioned how the officer would know this – in essence, how was he 100 percent sure the defendant understood what was going on?
With the stage set, A.B. recalled the morning of April 21, 2018, where she was assigned to regulate traffic for Picnic Day. She wore a bright yellow vest with the word “Police” over them. To the court she explained the difference between a “soft” and “hard” closure.
A “soft” closure is one where residents on the streets and passersby can pass through an opening, in and out.
A “hard” closure is one where absolutely no one is allowed to exit and enter the street.
The first encounter she had was where Mr. Dang moved toward the barricades, and attempted to make a left on the intersection while the complaining party directed him to keep moving.
Yet he circled back to where she claimed he began yelling from his car, inching closer and holding his ID, which baffled her in the moment. Holding up traffic, she finally heard him say, “I live down here, I need to get through!”
A.B. apologetically told him he could not pass through, as they were in “hard” closure mode.
As he inched forward in “start and stop” motions, he bumped into the complaining party’s left knee. Pictures of the yellow and blue bruise were taken by Sheri Kolb, another police service specialist.
Considering her work with the police department, the defense pressed her about why she did not immediately dispatch officers after she was allegedly hit. They highlighted that the People did not have one single witness who could attest to seeing Mr. Dang purposefully strike her.
Instead, A.B. texted her fellow co-worker “K.V.” who was also working the same day. Ironically, K.V. had a similar encounter earlier in the day, which prompted her to take a picture of the car’s license plate.
That plate was the same plate that Officer Torres used to find Mr. Dang and create his line up.
In fact, around 8:30 am that morning, K.V. remembered seeing Mr. Dang and allowing him to leave his residence. It was not until 11:15 am where she testified to seeing him again, sticking out his I.D. card. As he kept inching forward, this is where K.V. took a picture of the car. It wasn’t until later in the police department that both the complaining witness and K.V. exchanged notes.
Interestingly, it seemed A.B. never intended on reporting the event, but testified she was advised by her supervisor to push forward with the allegation.
However, as the trial progressed, it was revealed that although both women were instructed not to speak of the trial to anyone, they both received their own and their co-worker’s report.
Closing statements ended with the deputy district attorney focusing on the details of the case. The complaining witness was wearing a clear indication of a police sign, and felt the need to put herself in front of the vehicle to do her job. But Mr. Dang drove his 2,000 lb car forward, knowing they would eventually collide.
The defense gave a detailed closing statement, PowerPoint included, of all the elements the jury had to identify in order to find Mr. Dang guilty.
She argued that assault with a deadly weapon needed to be redefined, as a car is not inherently deadly so much so as a pillow or butter knife would be. Further, it must have been used purposefully for the intent to create death or bodily injury – the latter as a significant injury, more than a minor or major injury.
To conclude her case, the defense reminded the jury that A.B.‘s comments to “keep moving” and “move your car” were conflicting and confusing statements, especially for someone whose mother tongue is Vietnamese.
A case of simple miscommunication from a man who just wanted to get home, or a willful attack on a police officer? It’s up to the jury to decide.