A Vietnamese comedian who was arrested in the US on charges of sexual offenses pleaded not guilty in his arraignment on Friday, US media reported.
Hong Quang Minh, the 38-year-old well-known entertainer who goes by the stage name Minh Beo, denied allegations that he molested a boy during a dance-video audition in Huntington Beach.
At the first hearing, Superior Court Judge Craig Robison approved the US$1 million bail – 10 times higher than the normal amount for the charges – despite protests from Minh’s attorney, who called the amount “unfair.”
The attorney, Do Phu, said his client has agreed to surrender his passport and wear an electronic ankle monitor to assure he will not leave the country.
“I don’t think he would flee... He loves being in America,” Phu was quoted by news website The Orange County Register as saying after the hearing.
He said Minh’s family is trying to raise sufficient funds so his $1 million bail can be posted.
Minh was arrested on March 24 and detained at Orange County Jail. He faces charges of oral copulation of a minor, attempting to commit a lewd act upon a child under the age of 14, and meeting with a minor with the intent to engage in a lewd conduct.
He reportedly started his month-long tour around the US on March 18. He was set to perform for Vietnamese communities in different cities.
In its report, the Orange County news website cited prosecutors as saying Minh met a group of dancers of a talent show at a local radio station on March 20 and told them he was hosting auditions for a video project.
When a boy arrived for an audition three days later, the actor allegedly abused him sexually, according to the news report.
The boy later reported the incident to local police who launched an investigation.
Minh also attempted to set up a meeting with an undercover officer who posed as a minor to approach him, the website said, citing prosecutors.
He is accused of intending to commit a sexual assault at the meeting and was subsequently arrested.
His case prompted State Sen. Janet Nguyen to propose new legislation that would allow judges in future cases to deny bail for felony suspects who are deemed a flight risk, according to The Orange County Register.
Under federal law, a suspect can be held without bail if the court believes there is a flight risk. But in California, the court can only deny bail in capital cases or in rare cases where the judge believes the suspect poses a danger to the community. Minh’s case is in state court.
In a news conference this week, Nguyen said she believes Minh is a flight risk.
The next hearings are scheduled on May 13 and June 10.