Though a savage thug and murderer who liked to use guns, knives and a baseball bat to inflict pain during ambushes, Stephenson Choi Kim's life inside the Orange County Jail (OCJ) couldn't have been more pleasant.
Take the third Saturday in May 2011, for example.
Already convicted of committing a fatal, unprovoked restaurant shooting seven years earlier for his Southern California criminal street gang and awaiting an eventual 255-year sentence, Kim wanted to satisfy his carnal desires without relying on cellmates.
He summoned his civilian girlfriend, Ha Duc Nguyen, to Booth A of the Attorney-Bonds section of the jail visitor area, where a thoughtful deputy improved the ambiance and privacy of the bland room by turning off the lights.
Dragon--Kim's gang moniker probably to compensate for his short physical stature--then plugged a laptop computer into an electrical socket, watched a porno DVD while fondling Nguyen and stripped.
For perhaps an hour or longer and within feet of deputies, the killer engaged in oral, anal and vaginal sex.
During post coital bliss, he enjoyed a McDonald's or Carl's Jr. burger that Nguyen--a high school substitute teacher--had easily smuggled inside the high-security facility.
When Kim returned to the inmate housing area, he called Nguyen on a jail phone.
"I got what I wanted: Your pussy and ass," he bragged.
Kim then talked openly about the sex, the burger, the porno and apologized for giving Nguyen a hickey during their date.
The conversation--conducted without fear that deputies would monitor the call and take corrective action--lasted so long, according to testimony this week inside Superior Court Judge Patrick H. Donahue's Santa Ana courtroom, that Kim also told Nguyen deputies were at that moment using a K9 to search for illegal drugs.
But the inmate--who was making thousands of dollars as a busy drug dealer inside OCJ--wasn't worried about losing his stash of marijuana Nguyen smuggled to him using cellophane and her vagina.
On a phone line that contains a pre-recorded Orange County Sheriff's Department warning that deputies monitor calls, an unconcerned Kim explained that if the K9 came near his cell he would simply shove the pot up his rectum.
Jail perks for Kim weren't just regular sex dates and drugs, but also imported food.
Abusing her role as a court-appointed legal runner to win contact visits, Nguyen testified on June 17 for prosecutor Aleta Bryant that she satisfied as many of the killer's desires as possible.
"It's really not that hard [to smuggle contraband into OCJ]," said Nguyen.
In addition to the sex, drugs and porn, during a two-year period she brought him vibrators, porn magazines, medicine, Snickers bars, Asian candy, tobacco, chewing gum, NyQuil, tuna fish, peanut butter, pizza, McDonald's, Carl's Jr., Vietnamese food, home cooking, steaks and pasta primavera from Olive Garden.
"Steve is obsessed with his hair," Nguyen testified. "The jail doesn't have sharp razors so he'd have me bring him [sharp razor blades].
Bryant asked her witness if she'd been concerned about giving weapons to a cold-blooded killer who, according to a long rap sheet, resolved even minor conflicts with horrific violence.
"I was not thinking probably," Nguyen said. "I'm sure it was a bad idea, but he was not violent. I didn't think he was going to harm anybody. It doesn't make much sense, but I knew Steve in a different way. I loved him."
The government's star witness claims she handed Deputy David Lloyd Cass, the defendant in the trial, gifts so he would continue to give her and Kim special privileges.
Cass, who was fired after an internal investigation, pleaded not guilty and has the support of a large group of family and friends inside the courtroom each trial day.
Defense lawyer Lewis Rosenblum acknowledges that the deputy was "nice" to the inmate but denies Cass knew about the sex, porn and drugs.
Nguyen claims she secretly gave Cass presents like $440 in gift certificates to Burke Williams Day Spa and $400 in ice hockey match tickets as the couple's way of saying, "Thank you."
During more than 70 jail visits, Nguyen states there were times were they didn't engage in sex in the visitors' area.
"We'd take pictures and send messages to people," she recalled. "We called people-- texting and emailing."
They even used her cell phone to record some of their sexual interludes, including one where the naked killer masturbates in the visiting area.
She also claimed deputies allowed Kim to talk to her on the phone for "six or eight hours a day" during certain months and the conversations "very frequently" involved graphic phone sex.
Sometimes Kim made three-way calls to her and a per-minute-fee sex line employee.
"Steve had weird, like, fetishes," testified Nguyen, who is being housed without bail inside the Santa Ana Jail.
Bryant asked if she worried about deputies listening to the calls.
According to Nguyen, Kim insisted he knew sheriff's department procedures and was positive they didn't monitor the phones.
Nonetheless, to protect Cass from exposure she said they tried to remember to use code words--"Home boy," "Old boy" and "Our friend"--whenever they talked about the deputy's assistance.
The couple's marijuana dealing inside OCJ was lucrative. Nguyen set up a post office box where relatives and friends of inmates sent checks and cash for payments. Despite drug dealing competition from another inmate--infamous killer Skylar Deleon, the couple made so much money Nguyen diverted some of the proceeds to pay off a $10,000 credit card bill and Kim wanted to expand.
"He wanted to sell other drugs," she testified. "Heroin mostly [and] Ecstasy."
But Nguyen--who said heroin is commonly used in OCJ by inmates--claims she refused.
The witness also testified to the rapt jury of eight women and four men that Cass never sought gifts in exchange for allowing the sex, but also never rejected the presents.
"He was so nice," she said, noisily sucking on a lozenge for a sore throat. "He was helping us. It sounds stupid or horrible but when you have somebody you love incarcerated and you can't touch them . . . I was grateful that Deputy Cass let us that do that."
Rosenblum objected, insisting there's no evidence the deputy knew of the sex.
Judge Donahue sustained the objection and Bryant re-asked a question to encourage her witness to repeat the alleged quid pro quo deal.
"I feel like I owed him something for being so nice," Nguyen testified. "He was letting me touch Steve, have sex with Steve . . . The lights [in Booth A] would turn off whenever [Cass] was [on duty] and I would thank him at the end [of visits]."
Though the highly articulate Nguyen secretly married Kim several years ago, she says they broke up in January and now calls her infatuation with the killer the result of "insanity."
The case launched after a raid on Kim's cell found extensive contraband, including a phone.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Testimony resumes today, but it's unclear when Rosenblum--who has made no secret he plans to attack Nguyen as a clever liar offering testimony to win a sweetheart punishment deal from Bryant--will get his shot at cross examination.
For unknown reasons, Bryant is refusing to call Kim, now 33 and a resident of California State Prison in Sacramento--as a trial witness despite his key role in the case.