Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

The OCDA announced this week that after investigating the death of a homeless man who was put in a cell with a homicidal maniac at the OC Jail they won’t be filing any charges.

Danny Viet Pham of Westminster, a 27-year-old man who told OC Sheriff authorities that he was homeless, was found dead in his cell last July 3.

Pham was jailed after he took a car that wasn’t his and went “joyriding” one night. He was caught, pled guilty, and surrendered to serve six months in the Orange County Jail in Santa Ana.

Pham was almost done serving his six-month sentence when he was found strangled on July 3 in a cell he shared for days with Marvin Magallanes, an Anaheim man who’d already confessed to stabbing and killing two homeless men.

A jail employee delivering food to inmates found Pham’s body at 11:10, nearly three hours after he’d been strangled according to a claim filed by Pham’s family. At the time, Magallanes was outside the cell.

A video recording of Pham’s murder was reviewed by a Sheriff’s Lieutenant and other staff,” according to the Pham family’s claim. “The Lieutenant immediately determined that Pham was murdered… However, the official entry regarding the cause of death states ‘in custody death cause unknown.’”

Clearly Pham never should have been placed in a cell with Magallanes, who had a history of recent violence and profound mental illness and who allegedly hated homeless people.

On May 12, 2017, Marvin Magallanes (Magallanes) walked into the lobby of the Anaheim Police Department and voluntarily confessed to the stabbing murders of two homeless men. The first victim, Tavita Onosai, was described as a Pacific Islander, and was killed on October 27, 2016. The second victim was Sabah Alsaad, whose race was described as unknown. He was killed on January 25, 2017.

On May 15, 2017, Magallanes was charged with two counts of special circumstances murder. While being transported to court, Magallanes tried to choke a fellow inmate. The inmate was of Asian heritage, and had not provoked Magallanes in any manner. Magallanes reached his right arm around the inmate’s neck from behind and pulled him to the floor. The escorting deputies had to intervene and physically remove Magallanes. An incident report was written and Mental Health was notified, but Classification was not informed of the attack. According to Deputy Richards, Classification should have been notified of the incident. Administrative Segregation and Total Separation are more restrictive options for classification than PC Mainline. Magallanes’ designation, however, remained the same.

After that incident, Magallanes was taken to the mental health ward, Module L, where he stayed in a safety cell until May 23, 2017. Magallanes then went to the Theo Lacy facility, but was returned to Module Lon May 26, 2017, after an outburst in court.

On May 28, 2017, Pham articulated mental health concerns and was moved to Module L for observation. Pham and Magallanes are not believed to have interacted while both were in Module L. On May 29, 2017, Pham disclosed to a deputy that he was homeless. On May 31, 2017, Pham returned to Module J, where he was housed as a PC Mainline in Sector 1, Cell 4.

On June 4, 2017, Deputy Jason Hicks was escorting a nurse to Magallanes’ cell in Module L. Deputy Hicks instructed Magallanes to remain seated in his cell. Magallanes stood up, walked to Deputy Hicks and punched him twice in the face. Deputy Hicks struck Magallanes in the face numerous times, but Magallanes refused to follow directions and continued to fight. Magallanes pushed Deputy Hicks on to the bunk and a second Deputy intervened to stop the fight. Deputy Hicks sustained a bloody nose, and lacerations to his lip and face. This incident was also documented in a report, but was not given to Classification, and there was no notation made in Magallanes’ inmate record regarding this incident. According to Deputy Richards, for assault on a staff member, a jail incident report should have been written and provided to Classification. An incident report is the only mechanism in place to infonm deputies. Incidents are also available for all deputies to view in the briefing log, but re not required reading, and are not made part of the inmate’s file.

On June 15, 2017, Magallanes was assigned to Module J, Sector 1. Records display errors regarding the cell to which he was assigned. Magallanes was eventually assigned to Module J, Sector 1, Cell 8.

On June 22, 2017, Magallanes was in Module J, Sector 1, Cell 8 with inmate John Doe. Cell 8 has a metal hinged door and window. The door may be opened manually with a key, or remotely from the Guard Station. Two metal bunks, one upper and one lower, are affixed to the wall of the cell. Deputy Matthew Peterson, with OCSD for 3 years, was on duty when inmate John Doe, Magallanes cellmate, requested Magallanes be transferred. Doe complained that Magallanes made sexual advances toward him, and Doe wanted to avoid a fight. Deputy Peterson asked Magallanes about Doe’s complaints, and Magallanes denied the alleged behavior.

Pham was still housed in Module J, Sector 1, Cell 4. Deputy Peterson asked if Pham would switch places with Doe. Deputy Peterson did not inform Pham of Doe’s allegations against Magallanes. Pham agreed and moved to Magallanes’ cell, while Doe took Pham’s place.

Pham was described as fragile, good, and did not have problems with anyone. Magallanes was described as out of it and “not there.” No other inmates noticed a problem between Pham and Magallanes.

Jail logs indicated that safety checks were conducted at 7:55 a.m., but video surveillance showed that no deputies or jail staff entered Sector 1 from 7 a.m. to 8:44 a.m. Safety check records indicated that checks were also done at 9:00 a.m. and 10:05 a.m., but video surveillance showed that no safety checks were conducted at those times. CSA Myra Medina confirmed that the logs were inaccurate and no safety checks were conducted at those times.

At 7:23 a.m., video surveillance showed Pham exercising inside his cell, through the cell glass wall. Magallanes is seen on the video grabbing Pham from behind in a chokehold. Magallanes then pulls Pham toward the back of the cell, out of view of the camera.

At 7:37 a.m., Magallanes is seen placing Pham face down on the bottom bunk of their cell and covering him with a sheet.

At 9:45 a.m., Magallanes was advised over the inmate cell speaker to come out for an attorney bonds visit. The guard station unlocked his cell door. Magallanes left his cell without incident and walked out of Sector 1. He was met and escorted by Deputy Roberts. Deputies did not notice any unusual behavior.

At 11:08 a.m., Deputy Bartlett went to Cell 8 to deliver lunch. Deputy Bartlett said Pham was face down, with his head toward the wall, and looked like he was asleep. Pham was nonresponslve and Deputy Bartlett was unable to locate a pulse. Deputies on the lower level came upstairs and assisted with CPR. Deputy Roberts called out “man down” and requested medical assistance via radio. Two jail nurses arrived, and found Pham lying on his back in the bunk. He did not have a pulse. His skin was mottled and cold to the touch. Deputies were instructed to call paramedics. Pham was moved to the floor and jail medical staff started CPR. An AED was applied but no shock was advised. An Ambubag with oxygen was started. CPR was maintained until the paramedics from the Orange County Fire Authority arrived.

At 11: 30 a.m., the OCFA arrived and took over AED and chest compressions. The OCFA administered an EKG, which did not detect any heart function. A deputy began a crime scene log.

At 11:35 a.m., Pham was pronounced deceased by an OCFA captain.

Between 8:44 a.m. and 11:15 a.m., the time of lunch distribution, no deputies were in Sector 1.

At 7:15 p.m., Magallanes was interviewed regarding Pham’s death. Magallanes said nothing unusual happened before he went to see his attorney. When asked how he and Pham got along, Magallanes stated, “We do pretty good.” He denied knowing Pham was dead and said he was sad. Magallanes denied having any conflict with Pham and when asked to explain what the video showed, Magallanes responded, “Cameras lie.”

At 10:50 p.m., Pham was moved from Sector 1, Cell 8 to Orange County Coroner’s Office.

Evidence was collected and analyzed. DNA was collected from both Pham and Magallanes. DNA swabs from Pham’s neck and under Pham’s fingernails were tested, and indicated that Magallanes was not excluded as the contributor, by a probability of 1 in 1 trillion unrelated individuals.

On July 6, 2017, independent Forensic Pathologist Dr. Scott Luzi of Clinical and Forensic Pathology Services conducted an autopsy on the body of Danny Pham. He found fractured trachea cartilage, petechial hemorrhage of both eyes, and bruising on the upper chest and neck muscles, consistent with an arm bar choke. Dr. Luzi determined that the final cause of death was strangulation, and the manner of death a homicide.

On July 13, 2020, the OCDA filed criminal charges against Magallanes in Orange County Superior Court, case #17NF1330, for the death of Danny Pham pursuant to Penal Code 187(a). On August 25, 2022, Magallanes was convicted by a jury for Penal Code 187(a) for the second degree murder of Danny Pham. Magallanes was ultimately sentenced on that case to life without the possibility of parole, plus two years state prison, consecutive to 15 years to life.

The deputies who witnessed the attacks on the inmate and fellow deputy wrote reports, but neither were received by Classification. Even without those incidents, OCSD personnel in booking and mental health possessed information regarding the circumstances of Magallanes’ crimes and Pham’s homeless status. Those facts would have been critical to the Module J deputies when making cell assignments, particularly on this occasion, when Pham was asked to move to Magallanes’ cell. Those facts, however, were not accessible to Module J deputies, nor was there any reasonable expectation that they would independently have that information.

Incredibly the OCDA found that there was no evidence of express or implied malice on the part of any OCSD personnel in the case of Pham’s murder. The OCDA’s report stated that “Although the OCSD owed Pham a duty of care, the evidence does not support a finding that this duty was breached — either intentionally (as required for murder) or through criminal negligence (as required for involuntary manslaughter). There is no evidence that any OCSD employee intended to cause Pham’s death, or deliberately acted with conscious disregard for his life. The issue is whether any OCSD personnel acted with criminal negligence, or so differently from an ordinarily careful person in the same circumstances, rising to the level of disregard for Pham’s life or indifference to the consequences.”

Magallanes was also previously convicted of attempting to drive a car through the security gate at the home of Kylie Jenner.

Just before Pham’s death, the ACLU issued a blistering report that found that deputies at the Orange County jails used excessive force on inmates, staged fights between inmates, ignored inmate complaints, housed inmates in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and denied inmates adequate healthcare. In 2006, a 41-year-old Orange County jail inmate was attacked by a mob of others and beaten and sodomized for 50 minutes while deputies napped, watched television, and texted. He later died from his injuries.

The OC Sheriff, Don Barnes, clearly understands that his jails are a hot mess. He appointed a new OC Central Jail Commander, Chad Taylor, this week.

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The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

4 thoughts on “The OCDA won’t file charges after a homeless man was killed by a maniacal OC Jail inmate”
  1. My name is John Day On May 20,2017 I was chased by a vehicle while on my gas powered scooter that attempted to hit me 2 times and on the 3rd attempt he cut me off on opposite side of street to where I had no choice but to run into him and flew into a wall and vehicle fled ,and the officers from OCSD on site said it was my fault,knowing the suspect was screaming out the window I’m gonna kill you,you Mf.,even with witnesses statements they never looked or questioned the driver. My life meant nothing to those officers that day and still doesn’t today.Those involved should be in behind bars and no one listens us.

  2. This abhorrent is unacceptable!!! Just because you’ve committed a crime doesn’t me a you should be treated like this!!!

    1. What crime did he commit, Debi? He was threatened by the driver & then was cut off by the driver at the last second, so he was forced to run into the guys car. With his scooter. How is that a crime?

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