Two Ho Chi Minh City men were sentenced to 4 and 12 years in jail on Thursday for beating a man to death after a quarrel with local traffic cops last year.
The judges refused to summon the cops or order further investigation into the possibility that the police had called the two assailants to attack the man for his insubordination.
Le Thanh Bang, 37, received 12 years for overseeing and effecting in the beating, while Vo Van Tong, 19, got four years for acting as a lookout.
Both men were charged with aggravated battery.
According to the investigation, the 42-year-old victim Tran Van Hien had gone out drinking with relatives at a restaurant on the night of April 9.
Soon after leaving, he was pulled over by two traffic cops on Le Trong Tan Street in Tan Phu District.
The cops seized his motorbike, so Hien spent around 30 minutes quarreling with them, during which he threatened to film and expose them.
Hien hired a xe om (motorbike taxi) to take him home.
After riding 300 meters down the road, two men appeared and attacked Hien. The frightened xe om driver fled the scene.
When it was all over, bystanders took Hien to the hospital where he died from acute cerebral trauma.
Bang and Tong gave themselves up a week later.
Investigators discovered that Bang owns a parking lot on Le Trong Tan Street that functions as a police checkpoint.
His garage is where police pulled over and ultimately confiscated Hien's bike.
Bang's lot also serves as a holding space for vehicles that have been impounded by the traffic police.
According to the indictment, while he had Hien by the collar and was pummeling his face, Bang shouted: “You were arguing so well huh?”
Bang later testified that he beat Hien sheerly out of personal hatred and not because the police told him to.
“I only know [some traffic cops] stationed at the checkpoint. We are not close,” Bang said at the trial.
Bang testified that he leant the police a space to set up their checkpoint and provided them with a desk to sit at.
There was no money involved in their arrangement, he claimed.
The case first went to court in December of last year, but suspicion that the cops who stopped Hien had played a role in his fatal beating forced the judge to suspend the case.
Investigators asked telecommunications provider MobiFone to check possible phone calls between the cops who stopped Hien and the thugs who beat him to death.
Last September, Tan Phu Police issued a statement saying that MobiFone could not track the content of calls and messages to and from Bang and Tong’s numbers due to technical problems.
Thus, the prosecutors and judicial panel announced that they lacked sufficient evidence to accuse the cops of ordering the fatal beating.
Nguyen Kieu Hung, Hien’s lawyer, objected to the argument by pointing out there’s no evidence to prove the cops were not involved.
Hung said that MobiFone could have at least identified calls to Bang and Tong’s numbers.
But the judges dismissed his request pending further investigation.
They also ordered Bang to pay VND283 million (US$13,300) to Hien’s family and provide his mother VND1 million ($47) a month for the rest of her life.