Police / Fire

Jung Choi pleads no contest to voluntary manslaughter

Choi is one of two accused in a December 2017 murder. She faces up to 11 years in prison.
Judge Steven Sanders told Choi that a no contest plea was the same as a guilty plea.
Judge Steven Sanders told Choi that a no contest plea was the same as a guilty plea.
Photo by John Chadwell.
Photo by John Chadwell.
Deputy DA Joel Buckingham said he does not need Choi's testimony to convict Ji. Photo by John Chadwell.
Deputy DA Joel Buckingham said he does not need Choi's testimony to convict Ji. Photo by John Chadwell.
Sang Ji often appeared with documents and conversed freely with his lawyers and their private detectives. Photo by John Chadwell.
Sang Ji often appeared with documents and conversed freely with his lawyers and their private detectives. Photo by John Chadwell.

Forty-six-year-old Jung Choi pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter on Jan. 24 in San Benito County Superior Court. A South Korean national, Choi was arrested in December 2017 alongside Hollister resident Sang Ji for the murder of his wife, Yoon “Clara” Ji.

Ji faces is charged with first-degree murder. His trial set for March 10.

Choi will be sentenced March 5 and faces a maximum of 11 years in prison. But since she has already been incarcerated for over two years, she could be released in as little as seven years. After completing her sentence, Choi will most likely be deported back to South Korea, according to Superior Court Judge Steven Sanders.

Over the last two years of courtroom hearings, Ji has always entered grim-faced and looking determined, while Choi looked demure, smiling as she bowed to her lawyer and a succession of translators. She mostly spoke through the translator. In contrast, Ji would sometimes hold a large binder of documents, ignore his translator and talk animatedly while pointing at his defense team.

In July, Ji turned down an offer to have the first-degree murder charge against him reduced to voluntary manslaughter. He did so without consulting his public defender, Gregory LaForge, who then stepped down, leaving Artur Cantu to take over the defense.

If convicted, Ji could face decades in prison. When he goes to trial on March 10, Choi could already be in prison and most likely will not be called as a witness against Ji, according to Deputy District Attorney Joel Buckingham.

“My case against Mr. Ji does not depend upon her testimony,” Buckingham told BenitoLink, adding that he could not speak as to why Choi decided to take the plea. “What I can say, there was no promise on our end for her testimony. Based on the case, she was willing to take that responsibility and [avoid] the risk of exposure on the murder charge.”

 

 

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a BenitoLink reporter and an author. He has many years experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime that are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: johnchadwell@benitolink.com.