Funny, but Anthony Paul Johnson Jr. doesn't look . . . um . . . Westminsterish.
Despite our onetime Ugly Police Mugshot of the Week modelist's appearance, he belongs or belonged to a Vietnamese criminal street gang that killed a dude.
Today, besides Westminsterer, ugly mugger, gang banger and murderer, Johnson got another identifier: lifer.
Convicted in April alongside Giang Thuy Nguyen, Tam Hung Nguyen and Truc Ngoc Tran, 36-year-old Johnson was sentenced today to life in state prison without the possibility of parole for the execution-style murder of 18-year-old Viet Nguyen in 1995. The co-defendants, who called Johnson "White Boy," are expected to draw life sentences of their own on Sept. 21.
"Since the day we laid our son to rest, we have never stopped thinking about him, of his infectious smile," stated Viet Nguyen's father, in a victim-impact statement read to the court today. "People tell us they hope we will be able to have some sense of closure. We don't know if we ever will. My other two sons and three daughters have lost their brother. How do you close an open wound in your heart?"
Johnson, Giang Nguyen and Viet Nguyen wore masks the morning of Feb. 24, 1995, when they pulled a home invasion robbery at the home of one of Viet's classmates at Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach. Thinking he'd been made, Viet split, leaving Johnson and Giang Nguyen to fend for themselves.
That same evening, Johnson, Giang Nguyen, Tam Nguyen and Tran met at a house in Midway City and conspired to murder Viet Nguyen in retaliation for abandoning them and to prevent him from implicating anyone.
The next morning, Johnson and Giang Nguyen convinced Viet to drive Tam Nguyen's van for a drug run while the owner sat in the back. During the ride, Tam Nguyen faked an illness to get Viet to pull over onto the shoulder of the 73 freeway in Costa Mesa, which is where Tam Nguyen pulled out a semi-automatic and shot Viet execution-style in the back of the head.
The murder had been a cold case until the Costa Mesa Police Department re-opened the investigation in 2006. A jury on April 10 found each defendant guilty of one felony count of murder and one felony count of conspiracy to commit murder with sentencing enhancement allegations for murder by lying in wait, committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal street gang, and murder to avoid arrest found true.
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A sentencing enhancement for crime-bail-crime against Giang Nguyen was also found true, as was a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a firearm against Tam Nguyen.
No charges could be brought in the robbery that started the tragic chain of events due to the statute of limitations.