By Sue Misao
Northwest Asian Weekly
Tony Ng, convicted participant in the 1983 Wah Mee Massacre, will soon be set free from prison — and sent straight into detention at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) center, most likely in Tacoma, according to ICE officials.
On Oct. 24, the Dept. of Corrections Indeterminate Sentence Review Board decided Wai-Chiu (Tony) Ng, 56, is to be released from prison after completing 43 of his final 65-month term on one count of robbery. He previously completed serving terms for his convictions of 13 counts of robbery and one count of assault. He has spent the last 28 years in prison.
Ng’s crimes were perpetrated Feb. 19, 1983, when he and two accomplices hog-tied, robbed, and then shot 14 people in the head, killing 13, at the Wah Mee Club in Seattle’s Chinatown. It is the worst mass murder in Seattle’s history.
Ng was cleared of the murder charges. His two accomplices, Kwan Fai “Willie” Mak and Benjamin Ng (no relation) were sentenced to life in prison without parole.
In making its decision, the parole board acknowledged the desire of the victims’ families that Mr. Ng never be released, but decided he was “a fit subject for release and is fully rehabilitated.”
Citing Mr. Ng’s prison record, the board pointed to Ng’s positive behavior in prison, his psychological evaluation as a low risk to reoffend, and his expressed empathy with his victims’ families. He is “very sorry for his role in the robbery and subsequent massacre,” the board stated.
Mr. Ng is slated for deportation to Hong Kong upon his release from prison, pending U.S. Immigration’s ability to obtain valid travel documents from that country, according to Andrew Munoz, ICE Public Affairs Officer. By law, said Munoz, if Hong Kong does not provide the proper travel documents within 180 days of his release from prison, and the deportation cannot occur within the reasonably foreseeable future, “ICE may be forced to release the alien.” Should that occur, Mr. Ng’s potential release would not be unfettered. “He would be placed into supervised release,” said Munoz, adding that it would entail either the use of a monitored ankle bracelet and/or periodic check-ins with authorities. “It’s not common,” said Munoz, noting that only a small number of countries present such a problem providing travel documents.
Ng’s transfer from prison to Immigration detention is set for Dec. 5, according to Robin Riley, administrative assistant at the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board. (end)
Sue Misao can be reached at email@example.com.
Below is the full transcript of reasons listed for Tony Ng’s release, from the decision statement issued by the Dept. of Corrections Indeterminate Sentence Review Board:
State of Washington Department of Corrections Indeterminate Sentence Review Board
“Mr. [Tony} Ng continues to be a model inmate in terms of his behavior towards staff and other offenders and his overall demeanor. He is also an exemplary employee for Correctional Industries. In addition to his work, Mr. Ng creates elaborate origami sculptures that are sold through a church with the proceeds donated to a youth program in Seattle’s International District. His most recent psychological evaluation suggested he’s a low risk to reoffend and that he doesn’t endorse antisocial attitudes or behaviors.
Mr. Ng was asked to describe the index offense and his particular role in the robbery and murders. Many years ago, Mr. Ng was unable to respond to the Board’s questions about the crime but it appears his statements since 1999 have contained more detail and acceptance of his culpability for his part in the massacre. Mr. Ng has consistently maintained he never shot any of the victims. At today’s hearing, Mr. Ng struggled to articulate his role and told the Board that he helped tie up five people but was sent out of the building prior to any of the victims being shot. He denied hearing the gunshots as he waited outside the Wah Mee Club. He told the Board that after the crime, his mother urged him to flee to Canada, which he acknowledged today further complicated his situation. Mr. Ng told the Board he had several opportunities when he could have tried to stop the plan to rob the Club and acknowledged he made several bad decisions. He expressed empathy with the victims’ families and said he was very sorry for his role in the robbery and subsequent massacre.
The Wah Mee massacre was horrific and its impact on the Chinese-American community and other citizens in Seattle and beyond continues to reverberate to this day. It remains the worst mass murder in Washington State history. In making its determination of release for Mr. Ng, the Board has considered many factors, including his comportment in prison, the length of time he has served, his lack of criminal history and the nature of the crimes. Earlier Board members have questioned whether he has served a proportionate sentence in total and also struggled with the shocking nature of the crimes. The Board, in rendering its decision also considered the statement of the sentencing judge and prosecutor and the victims’ surviving family and friends.
It is difficult for the Board, and most certainly the victim survivors and the general public to separate Mr. Ng’s criminal actions from those of his accomplices. However, Mr. Ng was not convicted of the murders although he shares some of the responsibility. The Board is required by statute to consider Mr. Ng’s rehabilitation and whether he is a fit subject for release, in addition to public safety. There is no question that Mr. Ng could and should have behaved differently at the time leading up to and during the robbery and murders at the Wah Mee Club. He could and should have made better, different decisions. Mr. Ng testified that he certainly would make better choices today as an older adult man, about the age of many of the victims. Unfortunately, Mr. Ng cannot go back in history to change what happened and the Board has to base its decision on whether he meets the statutory criteria for parole and if he presents a risk to public safety. That statutory criterion does not include whether or not he has served sufficient time for his part in the Wah Mee Massacre. The Board recognizes and understands that for the victim survivors in particular, their preference would be that Mr. Ng never be released from prison for his role in the massacre.
The Board believes Mr. Ng is now a fit subject for release and is fully rehabilitated. Actuarial assessments have determined his risk to public safety is low and his behavior and demeanor in prison reflects consistent positive behavior. Mr. Ng has an ICE detainer and will be slated for deportation to China upon his release from prison. It is important to note that the Board was precluded from finding Mr. Ng “conditionally parolable” to a Mutual Re-Entry Plan (MRP) due to the ICE detainer. The Board would have preferred a gradual release through lower levels of custody over a period of two to three years for Mr. Ng. This is considered a best practice for offenders who have served ten or more years in prison to help ensure a release that enhances public safety and success for the offender. If for any reason Mr. Ng is not deported to China, the Board would pursue a conditional parole for him instead of a direct release.”