A Vietnamese movie star convicted of parental kidnapping will receive a new trial after a US federal judge decided that her conviction was based on an unclear definition of "domestic violence," a phrase key to her defense.
Ly Huong, a 90s film star in Vietnam who has since settled in New York, was found guilty of obsconding to Vietnam with her 4-year-old daughter, Princess, claiming she was running away from her physically abusive husband Tony Lam, a Chinatown restaurant manager known as the "King of Canal Street."
But Judge S. Johnson at the Brooklyn Federal Court in New York City threw out the conviction, ruling that the vagueness of the term "domestic violence" deprived her of a defense, the New York Daily News reported Friday.
A 1993 federal law allews defendents to argue that they were "fleeing an incidence or patter of domestic violence" to prove their innocence. But Judge Johnson said in his 24-page order that case law had not parsed the term "domestic violence" in 18 years and that jurors might have overlooked Ly's claims that her husband had abused her emotionally and sexually.
Huong, whose father is considered Vietnam's Bruce Lee, gave up her career acting in martial arts and action flicks to marry businessman Tony Lam.
Their 2001 wedding in Los Angeles was attended by 600 guests, including the then president of Vietnam and mayor of Ho Chi Minh City, the report said.
But the marriage turned sour in a Canal Street apartment she described as a "rat hole."
"Every day I have to climb up three flights of stairs ... and we had to hold our nose because people coming in there ... pee on the stairs and I have to clean up every day," the NY Daily News quoted Huong as saying at her trial.
Lam forced her to work in a pizza shop, talked about bringing home hookers and slapped her around, she testified.
Huong left for Vietnam with her daughter and was arrested during a return visit to the US in 2008.
Lam has so far denied her allegations and has the custody.
"I miss my daughter very much," Huong, 43, told the NY Daily News Friday through an interpreter.
Edward Kratt, Huong's defense lawyer, said federal prosecutors can retry Huong, offer her a plea deal or walk away from the case.
"We're hopeful this will be the end of her ordeal so she can be reunited with her daughter," Kratt said.