Second suspect pleads not guilty in nightclub beating

A second woman charged in the fatal beating of a recent college graduate outside a Santa Ana nightclub pleaded not guilty to murder charges Tuesday.

Candace Marie Brito, 27, of Santa Ana faces one felony count of murder in the Jan. 18 beating of 23-year-old Kim Pham. She is being held on $1-million bail.

"My client steadfastly maintains she had nothing to do with what happened that night," said her attorney, Michael Molfetta.

Brito is one of three women authorities suspect of taking part in a melee outside the Crosby in the city's downtown.


Vanesa Tapia Zavala, 25, of Santa Ana pleaded not guilty to murder charges last week, and the third woman is being sought.

As the court hearing played out, friends and family gathered in neighboring Westminster for a funeral Mass for Pham.

Outside the courtroom Molfetta, said his client is innocent and was knocked to the ground herself in the brawl. Zavala's attorney, Kenneth Reed, said earlier that his client also was knocked to the ground during the altercation, losing her cellphone in the process.

"Ms. Pham has been anointed a saint," Molfetta said. "My client and Mr. Reed's client have been vilified internationally and that's irresponsible and also wrong and the evidence is going to bear that out."

Molfetta said he reviewed one of the videos of the fight, recorded on cellphones by bystanders, and said it was hard to tell who was doing what.

"Unless [filmmaker Francis Ford] Coppola was out there, they're all the same quality and all pretty much show the same thing," Molfetta said. "Which is something happened but who it was was not very clear at all and last time I checked we're in the business of who it was and what they did."

Pham, a recent Chapman University graduate who aspired to be a journalist and talk-show host, has been praised by friends as a compassionate, family-oriented woman who devoted free time to charity and activism.

Molfetta said that Brito is also a bright, driven woman who worked hard.

"She's a good person," Molfetta said. "If she's the one that ended up dying that night you guys would've anointed her a saint. She's a bright young lady with a bright future ahead of her."