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NYC Asian American will see prison time for role in brawl, protesters say he was defending himself

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By Ti-Hua Chang

John Ong’s four years of what his family calls a “nightmare” will continue. In a Manhattan courtroom today, the 43-year-old Ong was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, then three years parole for second-degree assault and an eight-year order of protection for his victims including no social media contact. He was led away, handcuffed behind his back. He said nothing during the court procedure, only shaking his head no when asked by Judge Marisol Martinez Alonso if he had anything to say. Some 50-plus community supporters, most elderly, sat silently in the courtroom surrounded by 19 uniformed, armed court officers.

Brawl during pandemic starts the “nightmare”

Ong’s “nightmare” began on October 10, 2020, during the height of the pandemic in New York City’s Chinatown. Five men, three white and two black, after leaving a party during Covid, urinated on the side of the building where he lives with his elderly parents. Ong’s brother, Max, went outside and confronted the men, one of whom then tried to urinate on him. Max Ong called the police. The five men, all much larger and younger than the Ong brothers, then attacked them. John Ong, who is five feet four inches and weighs about 105 pounds, went inside his home and got an 18-inch curved long knife, which the prosecution called a Samurai sword (Samurai swords were actually 24 to 32 inches long), which he used to strike at one of the attackers, cutting the tendons in his hand, according to prosecutors.

Defense Attorney: Victims shouted racial slurs and were “no choir boys”

John Ong’s defense attorney, Earl Ward, said in court that his client suffered severe injuries in the beatdown and is still in physical pain. Attorney Ward told the judge that the victims “…started the fight and were no choir boys  engaging in racist anti-Asian slurs then tossing them ( the Ong brothers)  around like rag dolls.”

Prosecutor: Jon Ong tried to decapitate victim    

Prosecutor Uvale Simchi-Levy said in court that the two and half year sentence was “more than fair” since the defendant, John Ong, “… tried to decapitate the victim, severing tendons in the hand of the victim when he threw up his arm.” Ong had already pleaded guilty to 2nd-degree assault, a far lesser charge than the original 2nd-degree attempted murder charge, which can have a 15-year prison sentence.

Victim’s mother testified on behalf of son

The victim did not come to court. His mother, who would not say her name, told Judge Martinez, “…Jon and Max were not in danger when they went out.” She added that her son was already walking away at that point, a key point disputed by the Ongs, but believed by the prosecution and Judge.

Jon Ong’s mother & brother fear for him in prison

Max Ong and his mother, Iris, seemed stunned when they left the courtroom. Max Ong had plea-bargained for 2nd-degree assault and received probation. He accepted that he and his brother had done something wrong, but questioned why the five men who started the fight were never charged. He told AsAmNews, “We’re truly disappointed in the system. This is an injustice…My brother was in ruins.  He’s afraid for his life.”

Max Ong and his mother Iris Ong // Photo by Ti-Hua Chang

Judge and Assistant DA say protests had no impact on sentencing

Assistant District Attorney Simchi-Levy and Judge Martinez said in court that a protest for the Ong brothers organized last week outside the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg would not impact today’s sentencing.

Protestors have argued that the Ong brothers were defending themselves and questioned why the other five men were not charged.

Activist warns all Asians in New York at risk

Don Lee, the long-time community activist who organized that protest of 200-plus community supporters, told AsAmNews that today’s sentencing is a warning.

“Every Asian should be concerned cause they can come beat you up and never be charged,” Lee said, adding, “ The video evidence shows that they ( the group of five men) went back ..shouting he’s alone go get him.”

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

9 COMMENTS

  1. The younger gentleman’s mother asserted that the Ong family was safe. She wasn’t present when all of this happened. Although I viewed the video footage, I know I wasn’t there either. Her son attacked the brothers with the help of the other miscreants. Given that Mr. Bragg’s will not charge those five. I’m going to call him a bigot.

  2. the gang of five need their names and faces out. there must be justice. there must be retribution for attacking the asian community. anti asian hate is out of control they can attack us with no repercussions. these men cannot walk free. every asian person in america needs a gun to defend themselves.

  3. how is this the only news outlet sharing this??!! This kind of news should be national news. This is absolute insanity.

  4. I am a longtime activist and have a history of working with the wrongfully incarcerated.

    I was at the protest and as a longtime activist I’d like to have a conversation with Max and John if this is possible. My name is djelf7.

  5. My family has lived in Chinatown for 2 generations and my sister works with one of the social service organizations down there. More needs to be done there to protect public safety. The Ong family needs justice. But they should be working with a reputable and effective activist organization like AALDEF, not with Don Lee who other local activists know usually just causes more trouble rather than finding solutions in any situation he gets himself involved with.

  6. Does not exists in NY. Though seems you can pee on Alvin Braggs’s front door without being arrested

    The common law principle of “castle doctrine” says that individuals have the right to use reasonable force, including deadly force, to protect themselves against an intruder in their home. This principle has been codified and expanded by state legislatures.

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