Teens who shot at apartments will be tired as adults

By Todd Wels

Triplicate staff writer

Four Del Norte County teens will be tried in adult court on multiple charges of attempted murder related to last Thursdays apartment shootings.

And, Superior Court Judge Robert Weir ruled, motions by defense attorney Leroy Davies to forbid witnesses from discussing the event with the press and a request to seal the charges against the teens were thrown out.

Rulings on additional motions filed yesteday by Davies to close preliminary hearings to the public and seal the transcripts of them were delayed, pending a May 23 hearing.

At Mondays hearing Ler Xiong, 16, Meng Pe Xiong, 16, Steven Vongphachan, 17, and Johnson Saivong, 18, were charged with multiple counts of attempted murder, assault with a firearm, shooting at an occupied building, criminal conspiracy and violations of Californias hate crimes statutes.

The charges stemmed from last Thursdays shootings of two apartments on Eighth Street, following an argument between Ler Xiong and Meng Pe Xiong, and two white teens that were visiting the apartment complex.

The four defendants were charged with the attempted murder of the two teens.

They were also charged with the attempted murder of Tays Salazar, Brandy Mendoza and Ramona Light, the residents of the apartments.

No pleas were entered, as several of the defendants had not yet been appointed counsel by the court.

Bail was set at $100,000 for each of the defendants.

The charges against the four were filed under the newly-passed Proposition 21, which gives greater flexibility in charging suspects under 18 as adults.

This is the first case filed under Proposition 21 in Del Norte County, which led to questions regarding the housing of the three suspects who are under 18.

While Saivong has been housed in the Del Norte County Jail, his three co-defendants have been housed in the Juvenile Hall.

Davies argued that since his client, Ler Xiong, is under 18, he could not legally be housed in the county jail.

Weir ruled that the three minors would remain in the custody of the Juvenile Hall.

In arguing to close the court to the press and the public, Davies said allowing press coverage of the proceedings would make it impossible for his client to receive a fair trial.

Pointing to several Daily Triplicate articles and editorials regarding the shootings, Davies said the four defendants were being drawn, quartered, sentenced and buried by the press.

He also objected to what he saw as violations of the gag order he successfully sought against the police and district attorneys office.

The cops are willy-nilly, he said. Theyre debating this ad nauseum in the newspaper.

Del Norte County District Attorney Bob Drossel argued in favor of allowing the press access to trial materials.

Drossel argued that Davies has a record of filing five minutes before the case is to be heard.

Weir threw out Davies motion to forbid witnesses from talking to the media, saying that it would be a more egregious violation of the witness First Amendment rights than those of the press.

He also threw out a motion that would have sealed the pleadings in the case.