SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — One of three men who carried out a daring, elaborate escape from a Southern California jail was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison.
Bac Tien Duong, 49, was sentenced both for the Jan. 22, 2016, breakout and for attempted murder in the case that first got him locked up. He was given credit for the more than seven years he already spent in jail.
Duong, a reputed street gang member, was awaiting trial when he and two other inmates broke out of the Orange County Central Jail Complex in Santa Ana.
Using smuggled tools, the three cut through a metal grate in their maximum-security dorm cell, then climbed through plumbing shafts within the walls to reach the roof, where they rappelled down five stories using a rope made of bed linens, according to authorities and a cellphone video shot by one of the men.
That day, Duong allegedly called an unlicensed taxi driver who had advertised in Vietnamese-language publications. The 72-year-old driver was kidnapped and sometimes held at gunpoint as he drove the men around. The men then stole a van and took both vehicles and taxi driver Long Ma along as they drove hundreds of miles north to the San Francisco Bay Area, authorities said.
The men and Ma stayed in motels until on Jan. 29, when Duong took an opportunity to drive with Ma alone back to Southern California, telling Ma that another escapee had intended to kill the driver, according to an account Ma gave the Orange County Register in 2016.
The other two men, Hossein Nayeri and Jonathan Tieu, were arrested the next day in San Francisco, ending a weeklong manhunt.
The taxi driver, who has credited Duong with saving his life, filed a letter to the court asking the judge to show mercy to Duong, the Register reported.
Duong was the first of the three men to go to trial on escape charges.
At the time of the escape, Tieu was facing retrial on charges of murder and attempted murder for a 2011 shooting outside an Orange County pool hall.
Nayeri was sentenced in 2020 to life in prison without possibility of parole for kidnapping and torturing a marijuana dispensary whose penis was cut off in 2012 by robbers who mistakenly thought he'd buried $1 million in the desert.