Monday, May 17, 2010

Gypsy Con

Tony Ricky Yonko, also known as Dutch Luchiano and Sonny Banana, killed Paul Ngo on Oct. 22, 2002.

Paul Ngo's body was found by his two sons, 10-year-old Brian and 7-year-old Tommy, after Paul had failed to pick them up from school and they returned home on their own.

Ngo had been beaten to death with a ball peen hammer.

According to the trial testimony, Ngo had surprised Yonko as he tried to take the victim's safe.

The evidence shows that the hammer belonged to Ngo but somehow, Yonko grabbed it and turned it on the victim.

Yonko was convicted in June 2009 and senteneced to death in September of 2009.

His defense team tried to show that Yonko was legally retarded, and though his IQ level was low,jurors believed the prosecution contention that Yonko was sly as a fox.

The defense argued that Yonko, a semi-literate American Gypsy with no formal eduction and without any health, mental or social security records, was mildly retarted and not fully aware of the consequences of his actions.

The prosecution countered that Yonko was crafty and clever and manipulated the justice system for years.

Motions for a new trial and modification of the sentence that jurors recommended for Yonko --death -- were denied by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Judith Clark, who called the crime "particularly gruesome."

Before his death sentence was imposed, a subdued Yonko addressed the judge, who presided over the criminal, penalty and competency phases of his case.

"Thank-you, your honor," said Yonko, who when he was convicted, poured a cup of water over his head, prompting sheriff's deputies to put their hands on their tasers, in preparation for an outburst that never came.

Yonko was a friendly man, smiling at reporters during his trials.

His attorney, Elaine Johnson, felt strongly that her client, was not a bad man, just incapable of understanding all that happened around him.

But it was clear that Yonko would have understood that he was killing a man, particulary since it would take several hard blows to do the job.

"(The) death penalty should be reserved for the worst ofthe worst," Johnson said, adding that Yonko was taught from an early age that crime was necessary to make his way in the world.

"If you don't get your moral code from your family, then who do you get it from?" Johnson said.

But the judge ruled that once Yonko became an adult and could make decisions for himself, "he chose to commit crime.

"He had the choices, and he went out and did these things," Clark said, adding that the defense also did not prove its case that Yonko had diminished mental capacity.

She also pointed to the fact that Yonko took the hammer from Ngo and hit the victim numerous times.

"The circumstances of the death are particularly gruesome."

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