An convict who participated in a daring jailbreak from an Orange County jail in 2016 while awaiting trial for an attempted murder case was given a 20-year prison term on Friday. The first of three prisoners, 49-year-old Bac Tien Duong, was brought to trial for his part in the daring breakout from the Central Jail Complex in Santa Ana, which made national headlines and sparked a large week-long manhunt.
Duong was given a total of 20 years in prison at a hearing on Friday morning for both his part in the jail break and the attempted murder that got him in trouble in the first place. Judge Andre Manssourian of Orange County Superior Court noted before passing sentence on Duong that the principal victim of the jailbreak, a cab driver who was held hostage for several days, had credited Duong with saving his life by stopping another escapee from killing him. The taxi driver begged the magistrate to have mercy on Duong in a letter to the court.
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According to his defence attorney, Duong was arrested on accusations of attempted murder, assault, burglary, and discharging a pistol in November 2015 after a fight with another man inside a Santa Ana illegal gambling establishment. A prosecutor admitted during Friday’s hearing that the victim in that instance did not cooperate with law enforcement, is gravely ill, and had no intention of testifying against Duong. In order to gain access to plumbing tunnels at the county jail, Duong collaborated with two other prisoners, Hossein Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu, for months while they were awaiting trial, according to the prosecution.
The inmates allegedly used bedsheets as a homemade rope to rappel five storeys down the side of the building after ascending rungs within plumbing tubes to reach the jail’s roof. In testimony given at Duong’s trial, it was revealed that before to his escape, Duong had given a buddy a “shopping list” of the things he need, including a climbing rope, a knife, extra pairs of clothes, shoes, and a cell phone. According to the testimony, the friend transported duffel bags containing the stuff to the outside of the jail, where the escapees lowered a rope with a hook to draw the bags to the roof.
The same acquaintance drove the three escapees to a residence in Westminster on the night of the escape before returning them to Santa Ana. fugitives then got in touch with Long Ma, an unlicensed, independent tax driver who had placed an ad in the neighbourhood Vietnamese newspapers. Ma has given an account of picking up the men in Santa Ana and taking them to Rosemead, where they are said to have drawn a gun on him.
After spending several nights in hotels near Rosemead, the group—which by this point included the three escapees and Ma, who was being detained against his will—took a van that had been stolen in Los Angeles and went to San Jose and San Francisco. Deputy District Attorney Jake Jondle identified Nayeri and Duong as the masterminds of the escape during Duong’s trial, claiming the younger Tieu had a less significant part. Nayeri was in court awaiting trial at the time for kidnapping and brutally torturing the proprietor of a marijuana business in Orange County. Nayeri was later found guilty in the case.
Deputy Public Defender Abby Taylor, who represents Duong, disagreed, arguing that Nayeri was really in charge. According to the defence attorney, Duong only intended to leave prison, meet some ladies, and then go to Vietnam, but he was afraid of Nayeri and did as he was ordered.
The escapees’ “honeymoon phase” “soured” when they were in the Bay Area, the prosecutor told the jury. Eventually, after a heated dispute in a Northern California hotel room, Nayeri and Duong exchanged blows. Duong allegedly tried to save the taxi driver’s life while Nayeri allegedly wanted to kill Ma. Duong triumphed, taking Ma with him and returning to Santa Ana, where he surrendered himself in to the police. A day later, Nayeri and Tieu were discovered in San Francisco.
The prosecutor, Jondle, maintained during the trial that Duong knew about every aspect of the escape, including the taxi driver’s kidnapping. Although Duong participated in the escape, Taylor, the defence counsel, contended that Duong was not the kidnapper.
Duong was found guilty of felony escape by a prisoner in custody by a Santa Ana jury in April 2021. After clearing him of a more serious kidnapping for robbery allegation, they also found him guilty of mere kidnapping. On a felony car theft charge related to the van the escapees are accused of stealing in Los Angeles, the jury was unable to come to a decision.
According to Duong’s lawyer, he has been a “model inmate” in jail ever since his escape. Due to the more than seven years Duong had previously spent in county jail, he was granted credit for time served. In connection with their suspected roles in the escape, Nayeri and Tieu are still awaiting trial.
However, during his testimony in his trial for the kidnapping and torture of the proprietor of a marijuana dispensary, Nayeri acknowledged fleeing from the jail. Prosecutors have called Nayeri a “psychopath” and a “really wicked criminal,” and he claims he escaped from the local jail because he felt like he was being “railroaded” by the authorities.