People v. Plengsangtip

Decision Date19 March 2007
Docket NumberNo. E039985.,E039985.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Chansak PLENGSANGTIP, Defendant and Respondent.

Michael A. Ramos, District Attorney, and Mark A. Vos, Lead Deputy District Attorney, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

David Michael Lumb; Joseph F. Walsh, Los Angeles, for Defendant and Respondent.




Following a preliminary hearing, defendant was held to answer on a single charge of being an accessory after the fact to the November 23, 1996, murder of Luis Garcia (Garcia). (Pen.Code, § 32.)1 The charge was based in part on statements defendant made to police in a February 3, 2004, interview. The superior court granted defendant's motion to set aside the information under section 995. The People appeal, on the grounds the court misapplied the law concerning accessories and failed to defer to the magistrate's factual findings at the preliminary hearing. We conclude that the evidence adduced at the preliminary hearing was sufficient to support the accessory charge. Accordingly, we reverse the order setting aside the information.

A. Background

In August 2004, a complaint was filed charging defendant with being an accessory after the fact to the 1996 murder of Garcia. (§ 32.) The complaint alleged that on November 23, 1996, Woravit Mektrakarn, also known as Kim Mektrakarn (Kim), murdered Garcia, and on the same date, defendant, with knowledge of the murder, "did harbor, conceal, and aid said Woravit Mektrakarn, with the intent that he[] might avoid and escape from arrest, trial, conviction, and punishment for said felony."2 A warrant was issued for defendant's arrest, and defendant pleaded not guilty.

B. The Evidence at the Preliminary Hearing

The evidence at the October 2005 preliminary hearing included the testimony of 12 witnesses presented over a two-day period.

1. Background

In 1996, Kim and his wife, Aree Mektrakarn (Aree), both Thai nationals, owned and operated a food processing company in Ontario, California known as Rama Foods. Some of the employees of the business typically worked 12-hour days, six days per week. They were paid the minimum wage or a slightly higher wage, but no overtime.

By late 1996, Garcia, then 23 years old, had been working at Rama Foods for two years. Garcia was from Veracruz, Mexico. His cousin, Rene Delgado (Rene), had been working at the plant for 10 years. Rene acted as a chauffeur, mechanic, translator, and liaison between the Mektrakarns and the plant workers. Rene testified that, in October 1996, he was present when Garcia threatened to report the Mektrakarns to the "labor commission" for failing to pay overtime, unless they paid Garcia $5,000. The Mektrakarns agreed to pay Garcia $5,000 in three installments, and paid him $1,000 right away and in Rene's presence. Garcia was supposed to keep quiet about the deal, but before Garcia received another payment, fellow worker Epifanio Flores found out and also wanted money.

Garcia's friend, Guillermo Ramirez (Ramirez), testified that Garcia was going to Rama Foods to pick up at least $3,000 on November 23, 1996. Garcia and Ramirez were planning to go out to dinner that evening after Garcia returned to Ramirez's apartment with the money, but Garcia never returned. Another cousin of Garcia's, Franciso Delgado (Francisco), also worked at the plant. Francisco also knew that Garcia was supposed to receive money from Kim on November 23. Garcia was not seen or heard from after November 23. He had a plane ticket to fly to Veracruz, Mexico on December 8, 1996, to visit relatives, but he never made the trip.

According to Rene, Kim and defendant were friends. And according to Francisco it was not unusual for defendant to visit Rama Foods; Francisco would see defendant at the company plant in Ontario approximately once a month. In 1996, defendant owned and operated a business, Lanna Trading, in Los Angeles. Defendant is also a Thai national.

2. The Events of November 23, 1996

On Saturday, November 23, 1996, Francisco arrived at the Rama Foods plant at 7:00 a.m. Sometime that morning, he drove Kim to Ontario International Airport to rent a Plymouth Voyager minivan. According to Francisco, Kim returned to the plant in the rented minivan at "around 5:00 in the afternoon." Rene arrived at the plant at 8:00 a.m., and saw Kim there at 3:00 p.m. At that time, Kim's usual car, a Honda Passport, was in the parking lot. At 4:00 p.m, Kim told Rene he was expecting Garcia to arrive.

The Rama Foods office area was approximately 45 feet long by 20 feet wide. It was situated inside the northwest corner of the plant. There were three separate offices: the north, middle, and south offices. The north office had a door leading outside to the parking lot. The north office also had a door leading east to an adjacent storage room, which in turn had an access door to the plant area. The only other door allowing access to the office area from the plant, and vice versa, was a door in the south office wall.

Francisco recalled seeing defendant arrive at Rama Foods at around 4:00 p.m. on November 23. Francisco saw defendant park his car, a brown or tan Mercedes Benz, in the parking lot and walk toward the offices. According to Ramirez, Garcia left Ramirez's apartment in Fontana for Rama Foods between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. The apartment was a 20-minute drive away. Rene saw Garcia at the plant at 5:00 p.m. Francisco and another employee, Julio Zamudio (Zamudio), saw Garcia arrive at 5:00 p.m. According to Francisco, Garcia arrived in his own car and walked toward the office area. Garcia's car was there until about 5:30 p.m. Zamudio saw Garcia enter the plant area through one of the roll-up doors, and walk toward the office area.

At 5:00 p.m, Aree called Rene into the plant's north office to translate for Garcia. According to Rene, there were five people in the office other than himself: defendant, Garcia, Kim, Aree, and Kim's sister Vicky.3 Kim and Aree told Rene they were going to pay Garcia the rest of the money. Rene did not witness the payment, however. Aree told Rene to go clean the area in the back of the plant, and Rene left the office with Aree. Rene thought Aree's request was strange, because cleaning was not a part of his normal duties. He wanted to return to the office, but Aree would not allow him back in the office.

Rene did not complete the cleaning assignment. Instead, he left for home at 5:30 p.m. As he did so, he drove by the outside door to the north office and looked through the window. Inside the office, he saw three men, at least two of whom appeared to be hiding or crouching. At this time, Garcia's, Kim's, and defendant's cars were still in the parking lot, but Kim's rented minivan was no longer there. Earlier, when Rene was in the office, he saw two large metal pots, handcuffs, and a handheld radio. The metal pots were clean.

Francisco's usual duties included moving everyone's cars inside the plant near the end of the day. Between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m., he tried to enter the office area to retrieve car keys to move the cars and park them inside the plant, but Aree did not allow him in the office area. This was the first time Francisco had not been allowed to move the cars inside the plant. Francisco left the plant at 7:00 p.m. At that time, he noticed that defendant's car was still in the parking lot.

During the afternoon, Kim ordered Zamudio to stack pallets in front of the south office door. This prevented access to the offices from the plant area. Zamudio used a forklift to begin stacking the pallets, and Kim completed the task. The stack was heavy and as high as the top of the office door. The task was. completed before Zamudio saw Garcia amve at 5:00 p.m. During the 14 years Zamudio worked at the plant, he had never seen a stack of pallets blocking the office door. Zamudio also testified that his coworker Adolfo was not allowed to count his sales route money inside the office that afternoon, as Adolfo usually did.

3. The 1996 Investigation

By Monday, November 25, 1996, a homicide investigation was underway. When Francisco arrived at work that morning, he entered the plant through the office area and noticed that the carpet was "cut up and dirty." It looked as though some liquid had been spilled on it. It did not look that way when he last saw it on Saturday morning, November 23.

Forensic supervisor Steve Hall (Hall) arrived at the Rama Foods crime scene at 10:15 p.m., and joined the investigation. When Hall arrived, Kim was present and had injuries on both his hands.

Hall testified about several items the police found in a dumpster 50 feet from the office area. These included: (1) a large metal pot wrapped in two plastic bags. There was ash inside the pot, and it looked as though someone tried to burn evidence in it; (2) a plastic bucket with burned carpet inside; (3) three pieces of carpet that had been fused together by burning; (4) a small, triangular piece of carpet that matched a triangular hole found in the south office carpeting; (5) a can of lighter fluid with about one inch of liquid inside; (6) a pair of blue jeans stained white by bleach and with cleaning fluid on them; (7) a yellow glove and pink velvet soap material, the same sort of fluid found on the rug in the north office; and (8) an original fax cover sheet with defendant's "Lanna Trading" letterhead.

The following items tested positive for the presence of blood or blood stains: (1) a piece of "rug" from the north office; (2) carpet in the office hallway along the west wall; (3) carpet next to the triangularshaped hole in the south office; and (4) the area inside the office bathroom sink trap. Two handguns were also found at the scene.

The Plymouth Voyager minivan Kim had rented was found in the parking garage of the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas on December 15,1996. National Rent-A-Car had...

To continue reading

Request your trial
51 cases
  • People v. McGowan
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • November 19, 2015 that of felony preliminary hearings, which "is to weed out groundless or unsupported charges." (See People v. Plengsangtip (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 825, 835, 56 Cal.Rptr.3d 165 [purpose of a preliminary hearing is to "assure that a person is not detained for a crime that was never committe......
  • Navarro-Lopez v. Gonzales
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • September 19, 2007
    ... ...          People v. Prado, 67 Cal.App.3d 267, 136 Cal.Rptr. 521, 523 (1977). Thus, a conviction under section 32 requires knowing interference with the enforcement ... Plengsangtip, 148 Cal.App.4th 825, 836, 56 Cal.Rptr.3d 165 (2007) ("It is clear that certain lies or `affirmative falsehoods' to authorities, when made with the ... ...
  • State v. Budik
    • United States
    • Washington Supreme Court
    • February 16, 2012
  • People v. Partee
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • March 21, 2018
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT