Vietnamese celebrity pleads not guilty to U.S. child molestation charges

By Duc Tri, That Son, Toan Dao   April 16, 2016 | 08:19 pm GMT+7

Vietnamese comedian Hong Quang Minh pleaded not guilty to allegations that he molested a boy during a dance-video audition as he showed up at an arraignment in Santa Ana, California on Friday, according to U.S. media.

This is the actor’s first appearance since he was arrested on March 24 in Orange County, California. Following the arraignment on Friday, Minh will appear at a pre-trial on May 13, and stand his first-instance trial on June 10, with both proceedings taking place at a Westminster court.

Minh, whose stage name is Minh Beo, appeared at the hearing at about 12 p.m. local time. He looked thinner and tired but stayed calm, Ngoc Lan, a Vietnamese reporter attending the arraignment, told VnExpress. Be Map, a Vietnamese actress watching the five-minute hearing through a video screen said Minh did not say anything but listen to his attorney.

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Minh (second from left) at the arraignment with a translator and two lawyers. Photo by Ngoc Lan

The Orange County Register, a daily newspaper published in California, said in a report Friday that Superior Court Judge Craig Robison approved the $1 million bail despite protests from Minh’s attorney, Phu Do Nguyen, who called the amount “unfair.”

Nguyen said his client has agreed to surrender his passport and wear an electronic ankle monitor to assure he won’t leave the country. Minh travels for work but has a home in Garden Grove, he said.

Minh was reportedly holding auditions for a project he was working on in California, and he is accused of orally copulating a boy on March 23, when the victim arrived for the audition. The boy reported the incident to police, which then launched an investigation, the Orange County Register reported, citing prosecutors.

If convicted of the charges he faces a maximum prison sentence of five years and eight months, and a lifetime sex offender registration, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office had said in a statement to local media.

Minh has performed in a number of television programs and movies in the U.S. and Vietnam, and he was reportedly planning to open a modeling school and continue with an ongoing humanitarian TV show called "Luc Lac Vang" once he returned to Vietnam.

Minh has received awards for his contributions to culture and arts in Vietnam, and he is the founder of a comedy theater named after him in Ho Chi Minh City.