After a month in jail, Westminster resident and former CIA-backed Laotian Secret Army General Vang Pao is heading home. Yesterday, a federal judge in Sacramento granted a request by lawyers for Vang, 77, and 10 other defendants the government claims tried to overthrow the Lao People's Democratic Republic, to have their clients released on bail pending trial.
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Their argument, in part: The defendants are mostly old guys who pose no danger to society. It probably helped convince the judge that Vang attended the hearing in a wheelchair and two other alleged coup plotters, Chong Yang Thao and Seng Vue, had to be hospitalized that day for stroke complications, as reported by the Sacramento Bee. The news was cheered by thousands of Hmong-American protesters who revere Vang and gathered outside the courtroom chanting, "Free Vang Pao!" but not so much by federal prosecutors, who argued that the alleged coup plotters posed a flight risk and that Vang, in particular, could easily call out a hit on the undercover agent who busted him and his buddies if he gets access to a cell phone. Under terms of his bail, Vang will be confined to his home and only allowed to speak with family members and lawyers.