Orange County man sentenced to 12 years in Vietnamese prison is denied appeal

 In blog, Crime News: Los Angeles Daily News

Orange County man sentenced to 12 years in Vietnamese prison is denied appeal

by Roxana Kopetman

A Vietnamese American citizen from Orange County serving a 12-year prison sentence in Vietnam was denied an appeal for a shorter term.

During a four-hour trial, Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen, of Orange, pleaded guilty on June 24 to charges that he attempted to overthrow the government. Later, he asked the court to reduce his sentence so he could come back to his wife and four daughters in the United States. Late Tuesday, Nguyen’s family learned that his sentence was upheld.

“We’re extremely disappointed,” Mark Roberts, Nguyen’s brother-in-law, said Wednesday. “The family is upset.”

Nguyen was arrested on July 7, 2018 when authorities accused him of violating Article 109 of the criminal code, for activities to overthrow the government. He was arrested with friends, as they were traveling through Da Nang, in central Vietnam. Two of the people arrested with him face sentences of eight to 10 years for the same offense.

Nguyen is expected be deported after he is released; the other men must complete three years of house arrest after their jail terms end.

Nguyen’s family denies that he was involved in any activities against Vietnam and say he was in the country to visit family and friends. Nguyen has traveled to Vietnam before, as has his wife, Helen Hieu Nguyen, a surgical nurse at UCI Medical Center and Kaiser hospitals who went to Vietnam on medical missions.

“We believe all the charges against him are bogus,” Roberts said.  “We don’t believe he was there to overthrow the government. That’s nonsense.”

Nguyen was 10 when he arrived in the United States in 1975. He was among the Diaspora who eventually formed Orange County’s Little Saigon, the largest Vietnamese American enclave outside of Vietnam.

He owned a printing shop in Garden Grove and lived with his wife, four daughters, and his elderly in-laws in a home in Orange. Nguyen’s wife, children and in-laws still live in the home, where the devout Catholic family gathers regularly to pray by an altar in their living room.

Nguyen was described by family as “Mr. Mom” to his four young daughters, driving them to and from school and activities and helping them with their homework. His wife is often on-call for her two nursing jobs.

Since Nguyen’s arrest, the family has received the support of legislators from both major parties who have called attention to Nguyen’s plight through letters and speeches in Congress. As recently as Monday, Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, wrote an editorial for the Orange County Register titled “Michael Nguyen is one of us. It’s time for him to come home.”

Earlier this year, Porter also invited Helen Nguyen as her guest to President Trump’s State of the Union address in February. And in July, Helen Nguyen testified before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, where lawmakers pledged their support.

But support of U.S. lawmakers appears to have done little to convince the Vietnamese government to ease Nguyen’s sentence.

Meanwhile, Nguyen receives regular monthly visits while in prison from the U.S. Embassy. Officials deliver to him letters and packages from home, though he hasn’t been allowed phone calls from family members.

In October, Roberts flew to Vietnam and saw Nguyen, becoming the first family member to see him since his arrest.

“He appeared to be in good health and treated well,” Roberts said. “We were not allowed to meet alone, but in the presence of others. All the communication had to be translated to Vietnamese.”

The main message Roberts said he relayed to his brother-in-law was this: “I wanted him to know that he’s not forgotten by his family and by his government.”

After 45 minutes, the visit was over.

  • Helen Nguyen, center, and her four daughters are shown with a family photo in Orange on Wednesday, February 27, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen, 55, of Orange. (Courtesy: Family of Michael Nguyen)

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  • Helen Nguyen, wife of Orange, CA resident Michael Nguyen, who was recently sentenced to 12 years in prison in Vietnam, testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Screen shot via U.S. Congress video)

  • Michael Phuong Minh Nguyen, 55, was sentenced to 12 years in prison. (Courtesy: Family of Michael Nguyen)

  • Sen. Nancy Pelosi, Orange resident Helen Nguyen, Rep. Katie Porter and Mark Roberts (Nguyen’s brother-in-law) in Washington D.C. prior to President Trump’s State of the Union address earlier this year. Porter invited Nguyen as her guest, looking to call attention to the plight of her husband, Michael Nguyen, who has been detained in Vietnam with no official charges levied and forbidden to see attorneys or his family while he awaits trial.
    (Courtesy: Family of Michael Nguyen)

  • The family of Orange resident Michael Nguyen gathered for a press conference outside Orange City Hall Aug. 2 to discuss his arrest in Vietnam. Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Irvine, speaks to the press while Nguyen’s wife, Helen, second from right in the back, listens next to her four daughters.
    (Courtesy of the Nguyen family)



All credit goes to Roxana Kopetman
Originally published on

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