Sacto 9-1-1
January 10, 2011
Feds drop charges in case alleging plot to overthrow Laos

By Denny Walsh
dwalsh@sacbee.com

At the request of federal prosecutors, a Sacramento judge today dismissed the entire case against 12 men charged with plotting to overthrow the communist government in Laos.

Much of the case, which was originally charged more than 31/2 years ago, was thrown out as unsupported two months ago by U.S. District Judge Fank C. Damrell Jr.

After Damrell's action, "we conducted a further assessment of the matter," said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner in a prepared statement. He said it was decided that, "under the totality of cirumstances, it is not in the government's interest to continue this prosecution."

The late Vang Pao, the iconic Hmong American and military hero, was initially charged as the leader of the conspiracy, but the government dropped the charges against him in 2009. The government's motion to dismiss the whole case comes just days after his death at age 81.

In addition, prosecutors had earlier announced their intention to drop the charges against Youa True Vang, who served as a colonel under Vang Pao in the Vietnam War era when the general led a CIA-sponsored guerrilla army against conmunist forces in Laos.

The faltering prosecution was facing an evidentiary hearing in March on defense motions to suppress the government's evidence and dismiss the remainder of the indictment. The defense lawyers had declared their intention to call as a witness, among others, an undercover firearms agent who posed as a black market weapons dealer trying to sell his wares to defendants.

The defense lawyers have long claimed the indictment was secured, at least in part, through the agent's encouragement of the plot and his later misrepresentations in affidavits used to support court-authorized wiretaps and searches.

But Wagner, in his statement today, declared his belief that "the case was investigated and prosecuted properly and professionally."

Call The Bee's Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.

Related coverage:

Hmong leaders feel vindicated that feds dump Laos overthrow case - Jan. 10, 2011

Vang Pao funeral plans announced; 40,000 mourners expected - Jan. 10, 2011

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