An inmate found guilty earlier this week of taking part in a daring 2016 escape from Orange County jail was also convicted Thursday of kidnapping a taxi driver.
An Orange County Superior Court jury found Bac Tien Duong, 48, guilty of simple kidnapping, rather than the more serious kidnapping for robbery charge prosecutors had initially sought.
The same jury a day earlier found Duong guilty of felony escape by a prisoner in custody, but were unable to reach a consensus on a felony car theft charge.
Duong was the first of three inmates to go to trial for his role in the headline-grabbing escape from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Central Jail Complex in Santa Ana, which kicked off a week-long manhunt.
Duong – then awaiting trial on an attempted murder charge – allegedly teamed with fellow inmates Hossein Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu, spending months cutting through half-inch steel bars in order to get into plumbing tunnels. Once in the tunnels, the inmates climbed rungs to the roof and used a rope made of bed sheets to rappel five stories down the side of the building, according to authorities.
Deputy District Attorney Jake Jondle told jurors that Duong convinced a friend to pull together a “shopping list” of items needed for the escape, such as climbing rope, a knife, changes of clothes, shoes and a cell phone. According to the prosecutor, the friend brought the items in duffel bags to the outside of the jail, where the escapees lowered a rope with a hook to pull the bags onto the roof.
The same friend of Duong’s admitted to acting as the escapees initial getaway driver, until they contacted Long Ma, an unlicensed, unsuspecting independent taxi driver who advertised in local Vietnamese newsapers. Ma picked the escapees up in Santa Ana and drove them to Rosemead, where one of them pulled a gun on him, the prosecutor said.
Ma was held against his will for several days. The group first stayed in hotels around Rosemean before stealing a van in Los Angeles and driving to San Jose and San Francisco, the prosecutor said.
A rift developed between Nayeri and Duong, the attorneys said, culminating in a fist fight in a Northern California motel room. Duong told the taxi driver that Nayeri wanted to kill him, and the two traveled back to Santa Ana, where Duong turned himself in to police. Nayeri and Tieu were located in San Francisco a day later.
Jondle described Duong as an active participant in all parts of the escape, including the kidnapping of Ma.
Duong’s attorney, Public Defender Abby Taylor, countered that Duong agreed to take part in the escape simply in order to “get out, party, meet some girls and flee to Vietnam.”
The defense attorney described Nayeri as the mastermind behind the escape and the one responsible for the kidnapping and car theft. Duong was in fear of Nayeri, Taylor said.
Duong is scheduled to return to court for sentencing on May 14. He faces up to 8 years and 8 months in prison. Had Duong been convicted of the charges he was initially facing related to the escape he could have received up to 12 years to life in prison.
Nayeri and Tieu are still awaiting trial for their alleged roles in the escape. But Nayeri in a separate criminal trial that ended with his being convicted of masterminding the kidnapping and torture of a marijuana dispensary owner admitted to escaping jail because he felt he was being “railroaded” by law enforcement.
Source: Orange County Register