Nov 14, 2014 2:46 PM

Women get 6-year terms in nightclub brawl death

The Associated Press

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) Two women convicted of fatally kicking and beating a 23-year-old woman in a brawl outside a nightclub were each sentenced to six years in prison on Friday.

Candace Brito, 27, and Vanesa Zavala, 26, were earlier found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and assault in the death of Annie Kim Pham, an aspiring writer who died two days after the January fight when she was taken off life support.

Both cried as Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals imposed the punishment. The judge also was calculating credit for time served and restitution to be paid.

During the trial, Deputy District Attorney Tony Pino repeatedly played grainy cellphone videos that he said showed the women kicking Pham in the head while she was on the ground.

Witnesses testified that Pham and her group of 11 friends were waiting in line to get into The Crosby, a downtown Santa Ana bar and restaurant, as Brito, Zavala and several of their friends were exiting.

At some point, the groups bumped into each other and Brito and Zavala's friend exchanged words with Pham. The friend was not charged in the case.

Brito's attorney, Michael Molfetta, told jurors that Pham then swore and threw the first punch. Brito and Zavala were only acting in self-defense in a fight that quickly grew into a melee involving other bystanders, he said. Zavala's attorney, Kenneth Reed, argued that his client didn't kick Pham and that punches from other people might have killed her.

A forensic pathologist who conducted Pham's autopsy ruled the cause of death was blunt force injury to the head but said it was impossible to tell whether one specific blow or even a combination of blows including a fall to the pavement caused the fatal brain bleeding.

Jurors chose to convict the women of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter instead of second-degree murder, which carried a potential life sentence.


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