Jurors will resume reviewing evidence Monday of a California sports gambling middleman accused of murdering a bookie over mounting debt. Closing arguments in the trial took place last week in a Santa Ana courtroom.
Dennis Tri Gia Dang, 32, of Westminster, Calif., is charged with murder for the Oct. 20, 2019, fatal shooting of Linh Ho in Huntington Beach, Calif. The reputed bookie was 48 at the time of his death and resided in Fountain Valley, Calif.
Dang allegedly wounded Ho in the face. Orange County prosecutors said the shooting was premeditated. Defense lawyers contend it was an act of self-defense, the Orange County Register reported.
The defendant and victim had worked together for about eight years. Before going to work for Ho, the defendant received a criminal justice degree from the University of California, Irvine, the report added. Dang’s father, Jimmy Dang, was described as a “good friend of Mr. Ho,” California’s City News Service reported, based on statements from prosecutors.
It was revealed during the trial that Dang was a middleman in a California gambling scheme managed by Ho, the Los Angeles Times reported. Dang would find gamblers and collect debts. Dang also took a cut on the money, the Register explained.
Dang found it increasingly difficult to make successful collections. He owed about $60K to Ho by October 2019. Among those who owed money to Dang were his friends from college days, reports said. Dang reportedly wanted to pay Ho about $2,000 that day and then pay off the rest of the debt gradually. Ho reportedly refused to accept the payment plan.
Ho became angry with the slow payment progress and began making threatening statements to Dang about the debt. The statements culminated the morning before the shooting, when Ho texted Dang to pay the debt “or else you can’t blame me for what happens to you,” court testimony revealed.
Dang and Ho planned to meet at a Huntington Beach strip mall parking lot to discuss the money. Dang brought a firearm along to “scare” Ho, testimony revealed. But Ho tried to snatch the weapon, and a shot was discharged. Prosecutors argued that Ho wasn’t armed, nor did he pose a threat to Dang’s life in the SUV.
Ho then exited the SUV before collapsing from a gunshot to the right temple. He died at a local hospital a few days later.
Dang was apprehended following the incident and admitted to shooting Ho, the Register said.
Lesser Charges Sought
Dang’s attorney, Ricardo Nicol III, suggested that the jury consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, the Register said. He offered a different story based on Dang’s version of the incident.
“He says there was a struggle in the car and he was scared,” Nicol said in court. “He believed he needed to protect himself.”
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