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Sentencing set in fatal nightclub beating

  • Marisol Meza

SANTA ANA, Calif. » Two women convicted earlier this year of voluntary manslaughter and assault in the death of a third woman who died after a brawl outside a popular California nightclub face up to 11 years in state prison at their sentencing hearing Friday.

Candace Brito, 27, and Vanesa Zavala, 26, were convicted in July in the death of Annie Kim Pham, a 23-year-old aspiring writer who died two days after the January fight when she was taken off life support.

During the trial, Orange County Deputy District Attorney Tony Pino repeatedly played grainy cell phone videos that he said showed the women kicking Pham in the head while she was on the ground.

Witnesses testified that Pham and her group of 11 friends were waiting in line to get into The Crosby, a popular bar and restaurant, as Brito, Zavala and several of their friends were exiting.

At some point, the groups bumped into each other and Brito and Zavala’s friend, Emilia Calderon, exchanged words with Pham. Calderon was not charged in the case.

Brito’s attorney, Michael Molfetta, told jurors that Pham then swore and threw the first punch. Brito and Zavala were only acting in self-defense in a fight that quickly grew into a melee involving other bystanders, he said. Zavala’s attorney, Kenneth Reed, argued that his client didn’t kick Pham and that punches from other people might have killed her.

A forensic pathologist who conducted Pham’s autopsy ruled the cause of death was blunt force injury to the head but said it was impossible to tell whether one specific blow or even a combination of blows — including a fall to the pavement — caused the fatal brain bleeding.

Jurors hearing the case in Orange County Superior Court chose to convict the women of the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter instead of second-degree murder, which carried a potential life sentence.

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