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Bookie pleads guilty to manslaughter, gets 14-year sentence for killing a loan shark in Westminster

SANTA ANA — A 44-year-old bookie pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 years in prison Tuesday for gunning down a loan shark who owed him money in Westminster.

Minh Quang Tran pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and admitted a sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a gun.

After his first trial in the case, a mistrial was declared in February 2020 when jurors failed to reach a verdict. After two and a half days of deliberations, jurors acquitted Tran of first- and second-degree murder, but deadlocked 9-3 for conviction on voluntary manslaughter.

Tran, who is out of custody, was given until Aug. 19 to begin his time behind bars. He had about a year and a half worth of credits behind bars awaiting trial, according to his attorney Cameron Talley.

“I’m proud to represent Minh Tran,” Talley told City News Service. “A jury acquitted him of first- and second-degree murder, which was the right thing to do. And rather than take up judicial resources for another trial, he decided to accept the DA’s offer of 14 years.”

Tran killed 53-year-old Huy Phan and wounded Hai Ha, who was 47 at the time of the Oct. 28, 2017, shooting outside Club Bleu, 14160 Beach Blvd.

Tran was a bookie and Phan owed him money, and both men had romantic relationships with Juliana Trang, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Janine Madera.

“The victim was not a good person,” Madera said, acknowledging Phan’s past convictions for domestic violence in California and in Minnesota in the mid-1990s.

It was an “uneventful” evening at Club Bleu with patrons celebrating the upcoming Halloween holiday until Tran surprised Phan, who was outside the club smoking with several others, Madera said.

“They were all standing around, smoking a cigarette, chit-chatting when the defendant shows up firing,” Madera said in her opening statement of the trial.

Tran fired six times, shooting Phan in the face and a shoulder, while also wounding Ha in the buttocks, Madera said.

Phan may have been a “bad man in the past,” but on the night of the shooting, “He was doing absolutely nothing when he was shot down in cold blood,” Madera said.

Tran claimed Phan “deserved to die” and “ripped off a lot of people,” Madera said.

The prosecutor showed jurors surveillance video of the shooting.

Tran was “high on Xanax and tried to commit suicide” when police showed up to arrest him on Halloween 2017, Talley said. Tran ran away from the shooting because he was from Vietnam and assumed he would be charged with murder no matter what, which was also why he wanted to take his own life, Talley said.

Talley claimed that Phan attempted to rape Trang at some point. The defense attorney referred to Phan as a “gun-toting, loan shark, wanna-be rapist.”

Phan was convicted in California of domestic violence in May 2010, Talley said.

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