Former CA House candidate sentenced to prison

A former Congressional candidate from Southern California was sentenced today to one year and one day in federal prison for obstructing justice by lying about a letter sent to Latino voters during his campaign, federal prosecutors said.

Tan Nguyen (AP photo)Tan Nguyen, 35, of Oceanside, was convicted last year; in addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge David Carter also sentenced him to serve six months at a halfway house. He must surrender to start serving his sentence by March 28.

A federal jury in December found Nguyen had lied to state investigators who were probing complaints from Latino voters in the 47th Congressional District in Orange County, where Nguyen in 2006 was the Republican nominee who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove.

About 14,000 voters in the district had received a letter in Spanish that made claims about who was eligible to vote and what would happen to immigrant voters if they cast ballots; the letter had gone out on letterhead similar to that of an anti-illegal immigration group, the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, which actually had nothing to do with the letter.

Nguyen, interviewed by investigators in October 2006, falsely stated that campaign volunteers created the letter without his knowledge, prosecutors said. A federal grand jury handed up an indictment in October 2008.

“The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the voting rights of all individuals. We simply will not tolerate those who attempt to interfere with efforts to enforce civil rights laws in our nation,” Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said in a news release.

In a sentencing memo filed Feb. 5, Nguyen’s attorney, H. Dean Steward, had argued his client shouldn’t have to serve any time behind bars.

“Without question, Tan Nguyen’s reputation took a heavy strike in the indictment, trials and conviction herein,” Steward wrote. “As a public figure, well known in the Vietnamese community and the community in general, such a hit will remove him from politics and many other endeavors for life.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.