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.
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.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.