Editor’s note: This story was chosen as one of our top 12 in 2010. We were fortunate enough to be the only newspaper allowed to interview Tony Ng as he prepared for his parole hearing. We knew it would be very challenging, as the community still feels the repercussions of Ng’s actions to this day. This reprinted story was the fifth and final part of the coverage.
Part 5 of Northwest Asian Weekly’s Wah Mee exclusive
By Amy Phan
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB) unanimously found Tony Ng parolable to his final robbery sentence, which begins in March.
The decision allows Ng to begin serving his last first-degree robbery sentence, which has a minimum serving time of 65 months. The verdict gives Ng a projected release date of August 2015, at which time the ISRB will convene again to determine if he can be released back into the community. However, like most of his past counts, with good behavior, Ng could potentially have a reduced sentence time, making for a possible release in late 2013.
The 53-year-old McNeil Island Corrections Center (MICC) inmate has been incarcerated for the past 24 years for his participation in the 1983 Wah Mee Massacre, the state’s largest crime to date. Thirteen people were killed and one survived. One of three participants in the crime, Ng was found guilty of 13 counts of first-degree robbery and one count of second-degree assault. The two other co-defendants received life in prison, without the possibility of parole.
The decision was formed by the ISRB’s four-member panel, one of whom was present at Ng’s last parole hearing in 2007. Members serve a four-year term.
In January, Ng and his attorney, Michael Kahrs, met with the ISRB at MICC for a parole hearing.
At the meeting, board members asked Ng to explain his participation in the massacre, including specific ways he could have “said no and helped authorities … after the [crime].”
In a document explaining its decision, the ISRB said they found Ng’s recent answers sufficient enough to move him to his last count.
“Mr. Ng has admitted that his participation was due to bad decisions that he had made. He is now described as a person who can ask for help and who understands the impact that his actions have had on an entire community, including his family,” the board said.
The ISRB considered Ng to have “positive institutional conduct and an excellent work history while in prison.”
“Mr. Ng continues to avail himself of all opportunities to participate in offender change programming and to excel in instructional work,” the document read.
The most recent psychological evaluation conducted in October 2009 found Ng to have moderate levels of psychopathy and a medium risk of reoffending. However, at the request of Kahrs, a separate psychological evaluation was conducted at a later date, finding Ng’s psychopathy and a low risk to reoffend.
During Ng’s parole hearing, board members brought up Ng’s citizenship for the first time.
According to Ng’s 54-year-old sister, who wishes to not be named, Ng was never a naturalized citizen.
“Tony is a citizen of Hong Kong. At those times, people didn’t think it was important to be a citizen,” she said after the parole hearing, explaining why Ng didn’t become a citizen before the crime.
Board member Tom Sahlberg suggested to Ng the possibility of deportation upon prison release back to Hong Kong.
Sahlberg asked Ng if he had family and a community he could possibly live with if he faced deportation.
Ng did not answer Sahlberg’s question.
University of Washington School of Law immigration law professor Thomas Cobb said some of the most common deportation grounds involve crimes.
“Immigration law defines the crimes that serve as a basis for deportation very broadly,” said Cobb, who did not speak specifically to Ng’s case.
He said three of the most commonly used deportation grounds are “aggravated felonies, crimes involving moral turpitude, and controlled substances offenses.”
“The definition of aggravated felony is quite broad and includes crimes that involve the use of physical force against another person or against property,” said Cobb.
While Cobb did not know the specific details of Ng’s case, he said that in any circumstance, it is important to consider the elements of the crime, the sentence imposed, as well as other factors that provide a basis for deportation.
“Eligibility for U.S. citizenship can also be extremely complicated,” he said.
Cobb said that “good moral character” is one of many requirements for naturalized citizenship.
“In many cases, the definition of ‘good moral character’ makes non-citizens who have committed serious crimes or spent a long time in prison either temporarily or permanently ineligible for naturalization,” he said.
Upon hearing the ISRB decision, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg expressed his disapproval.
“This decision paves the way for his eventual release in only four to five years from now. That is simply not a long enough sentence for the crimes that he has committed,” he said.
Despite being granted parole to his last count, the ISRB maintains that granting an offender parole does not guarantee eventual community release.
Ng’s sister was relieved to hear the news.
“I’m please[d] with the ISRB’s decision. … Tony has changed and accepted his responsibility for his mistake 28 years ago,” said the 54-year-old. ♦
Amy Phan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.