Feds Drop Charges Against Hmong Leader Vang Pao

I'm always glad to see the feds exercise discretion and decline to prosecute someone, regardless of whether the person is someone whose views I agree with or not. Last week it was conservative blogger Sully, today it's exiled Hmong leader and former General Vang Pao.

Federal prosecutors dropped charges Friday against Vang Pao, the exiled Hmong general accused two years ago of plotting with a band of aging Central Valley expatriates to overthrow the communist regime in their homeland of Laos.

Vang Pao, 79, had been singled out as the alleged ringleader of the bizarre scheme to launch a coup -- reputedly with mercenaries armed with AK-47 assault rifles and Stinger missiles -- in the summer of 2007.

We need more statements like this please: [More...]

U.S. Atty. Lawrence Brown of Sacramento ...said federal prosecutors have discretion to consider a person's culpability and history as well as the consequences of a conviction.

The U.S., through the CIA, recruited and used the Hmong during the Vietnam war and then abandoned them.

Vang Pao's arrest in June 2007 prompted outrage among Hmong who fled to the United States in the final days of the Vietnam War. With Vang Pao as their commander in chief, Hmong guerrillas trained by the CIA helped the United States battle the North Vietnamese for more than a dozen years before the war's end.

To many Hmong, the prosecution seemed yet another betrayal by America. Though more than 100,000 Hmong resettled in the United States, thousands remain trapped in refugee camps or highland jungles, still on the run from communist forces.

Now DOJ should drop the charges against the rest of the defendants. As one lawyer says, "This is like dismissing charges against George Washington, but the rest of his troops are told they still have to stand trial."

The case was largely based on the work of an ATF undercover agent. The details, says the Times which recounts them, read like a spy novel.

After the arrests, Vang Pao and the others were branded as terrorists and charged with violating the U.S. Neutrality Act.

Defense lawyers for the men contend that they believed the CIA was on their side. They say the ATF agent aggressively egged the men on, exerting pressure to buy more weapons.

This is also another victory for uber-defense lawyer John Keker:

[T]he general's attorney said the case against Vang Pao was as flimsy as rice paper.

"The sting operation was grotesquely unfair, and at worst took advantage of some gullible people," said John Keker, the general's San Francisco-based attorney. "It was manufactured by that agent."

And it may save some egg on the Government's face:

[Vang Pao is] viewed as a quasi-martyr," said Phillip Smith, executive director at the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington and Vang Pao's friend. "If these charges had remained, the government would have been putting itself on trial for betraying the Hmong."

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  • Display: Sort:
    Wow, one thing I would never, ever (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Inspector Gadget on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 09:57:53 AM EST
    U.S. Neutrality Act

    accuse the U.S. of is neutrality. We involve ourselves in whatever we want to around the world.

    Wow. I had no idea (none / 0) (#1)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri Sep 18, 2009 at 11:34:26 PM EST
    I can understand the need to have such a law on the books, but it's beyond me why anybody would try to prosecute people like this for trying to get their country back.

    Are there exceptions to this law?  For instance, members of the Iraqi National Congress in this country were surely plotting all sorts of schemes to try to overthrow Saddam for years.  Are Iranian exiles, or Chinese or Cubans for that matter, not engaged in pretty active efforts to undermine the governments of their home countries?

    I don't get it.