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Sea lion stabbing suspect charged

Garden Grove man faces a maximum statutory penalty of one year in federal prison and a $20,000 fine.

August 31, 2007|By Jessie Brunner

Hai Nguyen, the 24-year-old Garden Grove man arrested last month on suspicion of stabbing a sea lion in Newport Beach, was charged Thursday with violating the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Charges of a misdemeanor count were filed Thursday morning in United States District Court, accusing Nguyen of illegally taking and attempting to kill a marine mammal.

“These mammals are protected under federal law and unfortunately, this is not the first time that we’ve had to file charges against fishermen who have attacked and sometimes killed sea lions and seals,” said Thom Mrozek, a U.S. Attorney’s office spokesman.

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“People need to know that it is an offense that could land you in prison.”

Nguyen will be summoned to appear for an arraignment in September. The charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of one year in federal prison and a $20,000 fine.

Nguyen’s scheduled appearance on Sept. 10 at Orange County Superior Court has been canceled because county prosecutors are no longer pursuing the case, said Orange County District Attorney’s office spokeswoman Susan Schroeder.

“Once the feds take over, we’re no longer involved,” she said.

On July 27, Nguyen was fishing off the M Street Pier on the Balboa Peninsula when a sea lion took his bait, at which point he stabbed the animal, Newport Beach police reported.

He was arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty, later posting $20,000 bail. The sea lion was taken to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach and euthanized. Animal care supervisor Dean Gomersall stated a stab wound through the chest to the lungs had caused internal bleeding.

The case was investigated by the Newport Beach Police Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office for Law Enforcement.

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