Man sentenced for killing grow-op business partner

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – A Vietnamese Canadian who was part of marijuana growing operation in South Glengarry has been sentenced for killing one of his business partners in June 2017.

Tri Hoang, 59, was sentenced by Judge Johanne Lafrance-Cardinal today (Thursday) to a little less than eight years in prison.

Hoang – originally charged with second degree murder and drug production – pleaded guilty in June to manslaughter and unlawful production of cannabis marijuana.

Court heard Hoang and the victim, 29-year-old Khanh Nguyen, had a history of verbal and physical fights, sometimes fueled by alcohol, while operating a grow-op with a third person – a co-accused – at a rural home in South Glengarry.

Judge Lafrance-Cardinal said home security footage 12 days before the killing shows a “tempestuous, aggressive relationship between two men.” Both men were armed – the victim had a meat cleaver and the accused had a knife.

Another fight happened on June 5, 2017 – the night of the murder – where Tri Hoang stabbed Khanh Nguyen with a kitchen knife after the victim approached him aggressively with his hand behind his back, the defence contended.

The victim then went into a bedroom and the co-accused “almost immediately realized” the victim was not doing well and brought him downstairs while the accused got a van.

Video surveillance showed the van speeding to the hospital where the victim was dropped off. Hospital staff took the victim out of the van and then Hoang and the co-accused fled the scene.

The two men were stopped and arrested by SD&G O.P.P. on County Road 34.

Twenty-nine-year-old Khanh Nguyen died at Glengarry Memorial Hospital. An autopsy showed the cause of death was a single 4.4 centimeter (1.73 inch) stab wound to the chest, about 8 centimeters (3.1 inches) deep. The victim was also intoxicated with a reading of 185 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood, according to the agreed statement of facts.

At the grow-op in South Glengarry, a total 583 indoor plants, 1,717 clones, 73 pounds of marijuana buds and five pounds of hash was found. The total of the value of the drugs seized, with the exception of wild marijuana growing behind a garage, was $737,670.

The judge called it an “almost commercial grow operation” where the three men would split the proceeds of the operation, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Lafrance-Cardinal also noted the accused had a criminal record that was “dated but related” because it also had drug-related and assault convictions.

The judge also noted mitigating factors, such as the guilty plea, saving the court costly time and resources since a Vietnamese interpreter would have been needed. Also the previous relationship between the accused and the victim and the accused’s actions after the stabbing – rushing the victim to the hospital – were also considerations toward the degree of “moral blameworthiness” for the accused.

Unlike second degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence, manslaughter does not have a minimum sentence, allowing the court to be flexible with its penalty based on “moral fault” for an unintentional killing.

Had the case gone to trial, the judge suggested the defence may have been able to make a case for self defence.

The sentence is seven years and three months in a federal penitentiary for the manslaughter charge and another eight months consecutive for the drug production. Court also gave enhanced credit of just over three years for time served in pretrial custody.

The case of the co-accused has been adjourned until Oct. 31, 2019. That date will be after Hoang’s 30 day appeal period, with the likelihood that all charges against the co-accused will be stayed. He is facing charges of accessory after the fact to murder and drug production.

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