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Vietnam citizen confined to jail

Immigration issues hold man accused of child sex abuse

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Chay Huynh

Chay Huynh

PROVO — After two years in jail, Chay Huynh could be a free man were it not for an immigration hold that will keep him at the Utah County Jail while he awaits trial on charges that he sexually abused two of his sons.

At a competency hearing on Monday, 4th District Judge Steven Hansen declared Huynh competent to participate in his defense at trial and released Chay Huynh on his own recognizance — a motion that would ordinarily allow him to leave jail with a promise to reappear at further court proceedings.

As a Vietnam citizen, however, Chay Huynh is being held on an immigration issue — just one of many that have surfaced in a complicated case involving the man and his former wife, Shelly Huynh.

"Even though he is released on his own recognizance, immigration is keeping him at a holding facility, which is now the Utah County Jail," said defense attorney Dana Facemyer.

Facemyer said he wasn't surprised by the ruling, considering Chay Huynh had been declared competent by three previous evaluations. While Facemyer admitted he saw little need for the latest evaluation, he said the insights given by evaluator Dr. Bert Cundick were helpful.

"It is never a waste of time or money to do a competency evaluation," Facemyer explained. "But in this case, nothing had changed."

Concerns regarding Chay Huynh's competency had been raised by the prosecution, who called into question whether Huynh, who has relied on court-appointed translators throughout the proceedings, understood the court process. Deputy Utah County Attorney Marianne O'Bryant had argued that Huynh did not fully comprehend the charges against him, citing a combination of cultural, language and mental problems.

Cundick, however, found Chay Huynh competent, though he suggested that things be carefully explained to avoid confusion. Chay Huynh was also advised to notify the court anytime he needed further explanation.

"It's a tough case because there is a different system in Vietnam," said Deputy Utah County Attorney Sherry Ragan, who noted that Chay Huynh could face possible deportation to Vietnam, though the details remain unclear. "I am sure that he is not used to having an attorney on his side."

Chay Huynh and Shelly Huynh are each charged with abusing two of their sons, though their trials are being handled separately. Both boys claim that their teeth were yanked out and that they were locked in the basement without food or water as forms of punishment.

One boy also testified that his father used pliers on his genitals to inflict pain and which later required corrective surgery. The other boy testified that his mother forced him to breast-feed on several occasions when he was 10 years old.

In two unrelated cases, Shelly Huynh faces multiple counts of check fraud after allegedly trying to pass more than $80,000 in bad checks at a Weber County automobile dealership, along with an alleged attempt to buy a $2 million home in Draper using forged checks.

Her defense attorney, Richard Gale, had previously suggested that Shelly Huynh hoped to testify against her former husband in exchange for a reduction or dismissal of those charges. Prosecutors have yet to decide if they will accept her offer.

A court date set for Oct. 7 will address any possible negotiations in Chay Huynh's case and potential trial dates. Ragan said the language barrier and need for tedious explanation may continue to slow court proceedings.

E-MAIL: lsanderson@desnews.com