The “freedom fighter” who dressed in a woman’s clothing and pepper-sprayed a singer visiting from Vietnam was found guilty of assault by a Santa Clara county jury Thursday. The jury acquitted him of a more serious, three-strikes charge of felony assault with a deadly weapon.
Ly Tong, who is known for numerous acts including a flight into Cuba to drop anti-communist leaflets, was arrested in July 2007 at a concert given by Dam Vinh Hung, a popular artist from Vietnam.
Wearing a dress, Tong approached the stage with flowers. When the singer, also known as “Mr. Dam,” bent down to take the flowers, Tong sprayed him.
Eyewitness accounts at the time clearly recognized what Tong used as pepper spray. Read here. The police recovered two pepper spray cans at the scene.
At trial, however, Tong apparently worried about the deadly weapon charged. So, when he took the stand, Tong testified that it wasn’t pepper spray at all but a mix of perfume and Vietnamese fish sauce.
Tong need not have worried about it though. In its special verdict, the jury couldn’t decide on what it was Tong sprayed the singer with, but either way they said it wasn’t a deadly weapon, the Mercury News reports.
The jury, including two Asian Americans but no Viets, found Tong guilty of two felonies, using tear gas and second-degree burglary with the intent to commit a felony, and two misdemeanors, assault and resisting arrest.
Tong was immediately taken into custody. He faces “a maximum of three years and eight months in jail, though the judge is expected to impose a blended sentence of jail time and post-release supervision,” the Mercury News wrote. Sentencing is set for June 22.
The verdict ended a long and tortuous trial during which Tong replaced multiple sets of lawyers and has trouble raising funds for his legal defense. He has also claimed to be victim of sophisticated theft of donations made to him.
(Freedom fighting is obviously expensive, so Ly Tong frequently has to do fundraising, even when he wasn’t being tried for anything. Like here.)
Ly Tong is also known for staging a hunger strike to demand that the area with Vietnamese businesses in San Jose be named “Little Saigon.” Rumors ran rampant on the veracity of his fasting when, after two weeks supposedly without eating, he ended the strike and downed a bowl of phở with no problems.
This time, the day after his conviction, Tong staged another hunger strike. This strike, however, only lasted from Friday morning to late Saturday.