Friday, October 8, 2010 at 10:11 a.m.
You might imagine that hardcore members of Southern California's criminal street gangs would want to pay the lowest price possible for a car--or even steal it for nothing.
But in February 2008, Rick Chhoun--a resident of Long Beach and an admitted 19-year-old member of the Suicidal Crips, a mostly Cambodian and Loatian gang--should have said no to the price for the Cutlass Supreme he wanted.
What was the cost of the car?
Chhoun paid $2,000 in cash and also surrendered nine years of his life.
He'd gotten the money from 2008 Little Saigon residential burglaries of other Asian families, bought the car and then was arrested by Westminster police. At first, he claimed that he'd gotten the money from working with his father selling Chinese food. He changed his story after detectives showed him a video recording of him committing the crime.
OC prosecutors won a conviction and Superior Court Judge Richard F. Toohey sentenced him to a nine-year prison sentence.
Chhoun--who used the moniker "Slick" with other hoodlums--appealed. He claimed there wasn't evidence that he belonged to the Suicidal Crips gang. The cop offered "only speculation, conjecture, guess-work and surmise," he argued.
It didn't take much mental work for appellate justices based in Santa Ana to dismiss his claim. Among other evidence, Chhoun has at least four tattoos tying his allegiance to the gang, including one that reads, "Suicidals." Also, police had recorded his presence with other members of the gang beginning when he was 12 years old.
"Evidence supports an inference that when he committed the burglaries, [Chhoun] had the objective of buying himself a new car," opined a three-justice panel.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly