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Mastermind behind 2008 View Street nightclub murder re-sentenced to life in prison

Sep 22 2012
The mastermind behind the View Street murder of Philbert Truong in July 2008 has been re-sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 14 years. 

The mastermind behind the View Street murder of Philbert Truong in July 2008 has been re-sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 14 years.

Photograph by: File , Times Colonist

The mastermind behind the View Street murder of Philbert Truong in July 2008 has been re-sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 14 years.

In April 2010, a B.C. Supreme Court jury found Somphavanh Chanthabouala guity of the first-degree murder of Truong and the attempted murders of Thuan Le and Robin Lepard. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years for Truong’s murder and received concurrent sentences of 18 years and 10 years for the attempted murders of Le and Lepard.

Although Chanthabouala didn’t pull the trigger, the Crown argued that he orchestrated the shooting outside the Red Jacket nightclub. At trial, the jury was told that Chanthabouala had his friend Mark Arrieta do the killing. At the time, Arrieta was 16. Both were self-described members of the Red Scorpions, a Lower Mainland gang that police said was putting down roots in the Greater Victoria area.

In November 2011, the B.C. Court of Appeal reduced Chanthabouala’s conviction to second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence, but parole eligibility can be set anywhere between 10 and 25 years.

The appeal court ruled unanimously that the trial judge did not properly instruct the jury about the effect of alcohol on the 25-year-old man’s ability to plan and deliberate the murder, which are essential elements for a first-degree murder conviction.

On Friday, with his family present and Philbert Truong’s grieving father Trung sitting in the back row of the public gallery, Chanthabouala, 25, was re-sentenced on the lesser conviction.

Truong was an innocent victim caught in the middle of a petty dispute between his friend Le and Chanthabouala. Inside the bar, Le was said to have accidentally stepped on Chanthabouala's foot. Chanthabouala's pride was hurt and he wanted Le, and anyone in his way, shot and killed, the jury heard.

Outside the bar, there was an argument and then Chanthabouala made some calls on a cellphone. Soon after, Arrieta and two other men arrived in a taxi. A witness said Chanthabouala pointed out Le's group to Arrieta and yelled, “Shoot him, shoot him” or “Shoot ’em, shoot ’em.”

Truong — who was posthumously awarded a Governor General’s medal for bravery — stepped in front of Le, saying, “If you're going to shoot him, you’ll have to shoot through me first.” Arrieta started shooting, hitting Truong directly in the chest. Le was hit in the upper torso and seriously injured and Lepard was hit in the shoulder.

It was only 26 seconds from the time Arrieta was first seen on a security camera after he arrived at the scene and the shooting.

At trial, Chanthabouala testified he called his friends to help because he thought there would be a fight. He said he didn't know Arrieta would bring a gun.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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