Closing arguments to be heard in fatal drugging, sex-assault cas - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Closing arguments to be heard in fatal drugging, sex-assault case

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A San Diego medical student plied an already intoxicated Orange County resident with drugs, then sexually assaulted and killed him, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday in arguing for a murder conviction, but a defense attorney said her client woke up in bed to find the victim dead next to him.

Closing arguments are scheduled to conclude Friday in the trial of Philong Huynh, who is charged with sexually assaulting and murdering 23-year-old Dane Williams in late January 2008 and sexually assaulting a 20-year-old Navy Corpsman who came forward a year after Williams' death.

The charges include a special circumstance allegation of murder during sodomy or oral copulation.

Deputy District Attorney David Hendren told a jury that Williams -- a Huntington Beach resident who was in San Diego for a trade show -- had a little too much to drink on Jan. 26, 2008, making him vulnerable to a "predator" like Huynh.

Hendren said Huynh, 40, acted like a "wolf in sheep's clothing" by giving Williams benzodiazepine-- a central nervous system depressant -- rendering the victim unable to fight off a sexual assault.

Williams' body was found three days later in an alley two blocks from the City Heights home Huynh shared with his mother.

The prosecutor said Williams, the Navy Corpsman and four other men who testified at the trial were heterosexuals who fell victim to Huynh's con game between 2007 and 2009.

Hendren said Huynh would meet young, good-looking straight men, gain their trust by talking about women, then offer to buy them drinks and take them to strip clubs in Mexico.

"The pattern is uncanny," the prosecutor said.

Once he got the victims alone, Huynh would slip them a depressant to knock them out, making them "basically unconscious," he said.

Jeremiah R., the Navy Corpsman, said he felt disoriented for five days after being drugged and sexually assaulted by Huynh, the prosecutor said.

Jeremiah testified he met an Asian man named "Phillip" in the Gaslamp Quarter in June 2009 and went with him to explore the beaches of San Diego. The alleged victim said he drank a bottle of cognac and complained of a headache, and "Phillip" gave him some pills from a Tylenol bottle.

Hendren said Jeremiah called the defendant after getting back to Camp Pendleton.

"He said, "Are you sure those pills you gave me were Tylenol?" at which point the defendant hung up.

Hendren said Jeremiah had a "boatload" of the drug Clonazepam in his system.

In August 2009, sperm found on Williams' body was matched to sperm found on the Navy Corpsman, and Huynh was arrested the following month.

Hendren said Huynh was in his third year of medical school, had studied pharmacology and knew a lot about drugs. Huynh also had prescriptions for Benzodiazapam and Clonazepam, the prosecutor said.

"He was doing anesthesiology for sexual gratification," the prosecutor said.

When Huynh told his boss -- a porn producer -- about how he liked to meet straight men and drug them, the boss said, "you might give them too much," Hendren told the jury.

Huynh told his boss he liked to have sex with straight guys and "liked to be their first, whether they knew it or not," Hendren told the jury.

A deputy medical examiner found the cause of Williams' death to be undetermined, but expanded that opinion to say the probable cause of death was from asphyxia, or lack of oxygen, Hendren said.

The deputy medical examiner said alcohol and drugs played an important role in the victim's death, according to Hendren.

When given a hypothetical situation in which the victim was given Valium and died during a sexual assault, the doctor said it could have been "sudden death during a sexual assault," Hendren said.

But defense attorney Terry Zimmerman said authorities pressured the deputy medical examiner -- and other colleagues -- to change Williams' cause of death, but they wouldn't.

"Philong Huynh is not a killer," Zimmerman said in her closing argument, "and you can't be guilty of murder if you haven't killed someone."

Zimmerman said prosecutors presented a mountain of evidence during the month-long trial, but it still didn't answer the question of how Williams died.

She said there was evidence that Huynh and Williams were together the night the victim died, and that the defendant woke up next to the dead man and disposed of the body where it could be found.

"Disposing of a dead body is not the same as killing that person, and it's not the same as murder," Zimmerman said.

Excluding Williams, all of the other men who testified against Huynh are still alive, his attorney said.

Zimmerman suggested Williams probably took Valium from someone he knew before meeting Huynh.

She urged the jury not to convict Huynh of murder based on a hypothetical given to the deputy medical examiner on cause of death.

"They (prosecutors) want someone to blame for Mr. Williams' death," the defense attorney said. "Desire is not proof. How can you convict someone when the cause of death is undetermined? You can't."

Zimmerman said there was no proof that Huynh was guilty of sodomy or oral copulation against Williams, saying the defendant masturbated on the victim's shirt.

Huynh faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.

Prosecutors will give their rebuttal closing argument Friday, and then the jury will get the case.

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