Killers of Youth Ordered to Pay $1 Million : Court: Parents of Stuart Tay may never receive the money, their attorney says, but the matter was pursued to send a message to criminals.
The parents of an honor student slain in a shocking murder case were awarded a total of more than $1 million Tuesday from four of their son’s assailants.
Alfred and Linda Tay also reached a $100,000 settlement in their wrongful death lawsuit against a fifth youth convicted of killing Stuart Tay on New Year’s Eve, 1992.
“Kids like them, they cannot think they can walk away and have a life,” Linda Tay said. “They really have to pay for what they have done. I don’t even think that’s enough. How do you repay a family for losing a child, a brother, a son?”
The Tays may never collect much of the court-ordered judgment, but they pursued the lawsuit to send a message that criminals can be held accountable for their crimes beyond prison time, said their lawyer, Mark E. Edwards.
The attorney said people are getting angry and frustrated by the criminal justice system because they are not satisfied with the sentences given out.
“Fortunately, rather than taking the law into their own hands, many citizens are looking to the civil courts for redress for matters involving crime,” Edwards said.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Jack K. Mandel quickly returned the judgment after four of the five defendants failed to defend themselves in the civil trial.
Resolution of the civil case marks an end of the court proceedings after the death of the 17-year-old Foothill High School student, who was poised to attend an Ivy League university and had hopes of becoming a doctor like his father.
According to testimony during the criminal trials, Stuart Tay was lured to a Buena Park house and beaten with baseball bats and a sledgehammer as he pleaded for his life. He was forced to drink rubbing alcohol before being gagged and buried in a shallow grave. Authorities said the teen-agers decided to kill Tay because they learned he was using an alias while allegedly plotting a computer theft with his new friends.
All five attackers, some promising students themselves, were convicted of murder, with nearly all the juvenile defendants being tried as adults.
Robert Chan, then 18, was the alleged mastermind in the killing and was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. Mun Bong Kang, then 17, and Kirn Kim, then 16, were sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Abraham Acosta, a brain-damaged youth who had just turned 16 at the time of the crime, was sentenced to the California Youth Authority, where he must be released by age 25. Charles Choe, then 17, was prosecuted as a juvenile and sentenced to the youth authority in exchange for his testimony against his co-defendants.
Only Choe, who is serving his sentence at the youth authority, hired a lawyer to represent him in the civil case, and reached the $100,000 agreement with the Tay family.
“He will have a monetary judgment against him,” said attorney Michael Moran, who represented Choe. “But I think under the circumstances, it’s the best thing for Charles. There are no winners in this case.”
The agreement also includes provisions that any money Choe might make should he write a book or sell rights to his story for any other media venture would be forfeited to the Tays, Edwards said.
The remaining four defendants will be responsible for sharing liability in the $1-million judgment, Edwards said. The judge also ordered that they pay $7,500 for funeral expenses and $18,500 for destroying Stuart Tay’s Nissan.
“If these defendants are ever freed and try to obtain credit or buy a house or car, they will be able to do so only after they have paid their debt to Dr. and Mrs. Tay,” Edwards said.
Several months earlier, the Tays reached settlements totaling $30,000 with the parents of Choe, Kim and Kang, all of whom had insurance coverage, Edwards said. By law, such insurance settlements with parents over the malicious acts of their children are limited to $10,000 each, he said.
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