Where is Charlie Tan now? His attempt to vacate his sentence

Charlie Tan had the opportunity to flee after killing his father, but he viewed moving to China as selfish: his mother would get blamed for the murder, and his brother would live alone in the United States. Tan and his mother, Qing ‘Jean’ Tan, returned to New York, where she called 911 and informed them Charlie had shot and killed his father to protect her. 

Tan, then a Cornell student with a seemingly bright future, admitted to deputies that he’d killed his father, but in court, he denied the second-degree murder charges. Tan evaded the murder charges but couldn’t avoid jail time. 

Charlie Tan is incarcerated after getting convicted on gun charges

For reasons we shall detail later, Charlie Tan avoided going to prison for killing his father. However, a dogged prosecution team found another route to send Tan to prison: indicting him on gun charges. 

The prosecution found evidence incriminating Tan for deceiving a friend into purchasing the murder weapon. Tan didn’t fight the charges – he pleaded guilty to three criminal counts for illegally purchasing the shotgun used in the murder. A judge sentenced Tan to 20 years in prison.

U.S. Attorney Lisa Fletcher said: “The premeditation starts with the planning days in advance efforts… knowing that he was buying the murder weapon, he was buying a gun to go home and kill his father and the efforts that he made even up to the time he got home.”

Per Rochesterfirst.com, prosecutors said justice had been served and claimed Tan’s refusal to admit to the murder contributed to the harsh sentence. “I think the judge said that he still has not come out publicly and said, ‘I pulled the trigger,’” Fletcher added. 

Charlie Tan is incarcerated in Ray Brook federal prison, a medium-security facility in New York. With good behavior, Charlie’s expected to serve 17 years. 

Tan failed to overturn his conviction even after admitting to the murder in court

The sentencing judge cited Tan’s refusal to admit to the killing as one of the reasons why he meted out a harsh sentence. Therefore, Tan returned to court and confessed to the murder, hoping to reduce or vacate his sentence. 

Tan’s attorney, Joel Rudin, also argued that the convict’s initial defense lawyers failed to provide documentation showing Tan grew up in an abusive household and that the abuse might have influenced his actions. 

Via an affidavit, Tan described instances when he witnessed his father, Jim Tan, abuse Qing Tan. Charlie stated that the situation for his mother worsened after he moved away from home to study at Cornell. 

Rudin argued that had the judge gotten a complete picture of the situation in the Tan residence, he would have rendered a lenient sentence. Tan’s affidavit read:

“I entered my parents’ home through the back door, walked upstairs, turned into my father’s office and shot my father three times as he was sitting at his desk. I knew I had killed him.”

Charlie blamed his former lawyers for his decision not to admit to the murder earlier. He continued: “They [attorneys] advised me not to admit that I shot my father. They were the legal experts, and so I accepted that strategy, even though I knew what I had done was wrong.”

Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. rejected the argument that Tan’s previous attorneys failed to provide effective assistance: “In this case… defense counsel extensively documented Defendant’s abusive household while he was growing up.”

Scullin Jr. said had he not considered Tan’s mental state a mitigating factor, he would have issued a sentence upward of 30 years. “The Court came to this conclusion at least partially because defense counsel focused on Defendant’s mental health as a mitigating factor,” Scullin Jr. wrote. 

The judge declined the request to alter or reduce Tan’s sentence. Rudin, Tan’s attorney, said he was disappointed with the outcome and would discuss the appeal option with Tan. Charlie Tan is yet to appeal Judge Scullin’s verdict. 

Charlie avoided conviction on the murder charge after the judge dismissed the case

In late January 2015, Qing Tan called Charlie to inform him that Jim had choked her so forcefully that she’d lost consciousness. The red marks on her neck served as evidence of the assault. 

Qing expressed fear over her life and told Tan that the next assault would be fatal. Charlie’s brother, Jeff Tan, texted him about the abuse and implored him to intervene. 

In early February 2015, Qing called Charlie and said she believed the ‘next time,’ Jim would kill her. Charlie advised her to lock herself in her room and desist from doing anything that could trigger Jim. The next day Charlie obtained a gun and traveled home to kill Jim. He said:

“I knew that in killing my father I would be throwing away my future, but I wasn’t thinking of that after the February 4 call. I knew that killing my father was wrong but in my own mind, I felt I had to do so to protect my mother.”

Despite Qing’s 911 call featuring an admission that Charlie had murdered Tan and Charlie telling deputies he’d committed the crime, Charlie pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges. 

Jury deliberations started in late September and took unusually long. “I don’t have an experience with a jury out this long, nor do my peers. It’s extraordinarily rare to have a jury deliberate for this long,” Monroe County Prosecutor Bill Gargan said. 

Contrary to expectations, the jury couldn’t reach a verdict, prompting Judge James Piampiano to declare a mistrial. The ruling didn’t protect Tan from a retrial. However, in the next court appearance, the judge unexpectedly dismissed the charges, citing insufficient evidence to sustain criminal charges. 

The dismissal prevented the prosecution from indicting Charlie on similar charges. Legal experts expressed their dismay at Judge Piampiano’s decision. Attorney Florina Altshiler told Rochesterfirst.com:

“I’ve never seen a case where there was seemingly sufficient evidence to convict or at least sufficient evidence for a jury to decide, and the judge taking it into his own hands to say no there’s not sufficient evidence.”

Despite precedent showing the DA’s office had no right to appeal the dismissal, the DA’s office appealed. As expected, the Supreme Court of the State of New York unanimously dismissed the legal challenge. 

The court cited the lack of statutory authority allowing an appeal in such circumstances. Furthermore, the court reiterated that dismissing a charge because of insufficient evidence was ‘tantamount to an acquittal for purposes of double jeopardy.’

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