Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.


Kim Pham's Gangster Friends Were 'Aggressors' In Nightclub Fight, Defense Attorney Says

Kim Pham died after a brutal beating outside of a Santa Ana nightclub (Photo via Justice for Kim Pham Facebook)
Before you
Dear reader, we're asking you to help us keep local news available for all. Your financial support keeps our stories free to read, instead of hidden behind paywalls. We believe when reliable local reporting is widely available, the entire community benefits. Thank you for investing in your neighborhood.

The defense attorney for one of the suspects accused of fatally beating Annie Hung "Kim" Pham outside of a Santa Ana nightclub says Pham's group that she was with that night are part of an Asian gang.

Vanesa Zavala, 25, and Candace Brito, 27, are the suspects charged with murder for the stomping of 23-year-old Pham outside The Crosby on Jan. 18 and are scheduled to be arraigned in court Friday. However, defense attorney Michael Molfetta, who represents Brito, said on Thursday that a new witness statement reveals Pham's group of friends are part of gang—and he thinks that changes everything, according to City News Service:

"There have been some developments in the case that directly implicate the Asians standing in line in terms of gang affiliation,'' Molfetta said. "They were the aggressors, the instigators."

According to their defense attorneys, this means that Zavala and Brito were just acting in self defense against this alleged Asian gang, reported the OC Register:

Support for LAist comes from
"It changes everything," said Zavala’s attorney Ken Reed. "Self defense is always an objective analysis of the reasonableness of a person’s actions." "Anybody who doesn’t think that this completely changes this case and what occurred that night is completely out of their mind," Brito’s lawyer Michael Molfetta said. "You can understand (Brito and Zavala’s) concern. And, there’s not a scintilla of evidence that any of the Hispanic group (in the fight) had anything to do with gangs."

The witness that came forward was Alfonso Magana, who is the boyfriend of a woman that goes by the first name Emilia (who is potentially also a suspect in the case), according to OC Weekly and OC Register. Magana, a Marine, said Pham beat up Emilia that night and he tried to save her. He says he was then beaten up and chased down by 8 of Pham's male friends who shouted at him "You know where you're at!" and said the name of their gang. However, he didn't recognize the name of the gang.

Molfetta accused the prosecutors of knowing about this witness shortly after the beating, but the defense attorneys had only heard about it now. He said this evidence should have been presented at the preliminary hearing.

"It explains what occurred and why it occurred and it puts to rest this ridiculous assertion that a lack of cooperation from the Asian community in this case was somehow a cultural thing,'' Molfetta said, reported City News Service. "Now we know why. Gang members do not cooperate with law enforcement.''

Senior Deputy District Attorney Troy Pino disagrees that this is a gang-related case. Video recorded from a witness' camera phone captured the melee. Pino argued in the preliminary hearing that Brito "sucker-punched" and kicked Pham and Zavala gave her the final kick that left her unmoving on the sidewalk, reported City News Service. Zavala asserts that Pham and Emilia got in an argument and Pham threw the first punch but missed Emilia and hit Zavala.

"It doesn't matter who was the initial aggressor," Pino said, reported City News Service. "The bottom line is she's on the ground defenseless as these two defendants kick her in the head. And that's what killed her."

UPDATE 11:15 a.m.: Brito and Zavala pleaded not guilty to the murder charges in court today, according to City News Service.