Candidate Gets Prison Time Over Election Mailer

The mailer, written in Spanish, claimed immigrants cannot vote

Monday, Feb 14, 2011  |  Updated 1:03 PM PDT
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A former congressional candidate accused of sending a mailer to Latino voters in 2006 warning that immigrants could not vote was sentenced Monday to a year and a day in prison for obstruction of justice.

Tan Nguyen, a Republican who was running for Congress in Orange County, will also serve six months in a residential re-entry program and three years supervised release, said federal prosecutor Greg Staples.

Nguyen declined to comment on the hearing before U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter except to say it didn't go well, The Associated Press reported. He will start serving his term March 28.

A jury convicted Nguyen in December of one count of obstruction of justice for lying to state investigators about his knowledge of a letter sent to 14,000 registered Democrats with Latino surnames during his bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez in 2006.

The letter, written in Spanish, said: "You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time."

Immigrants who have become naturalized U.S. citizens are eligible to vote. During the trial, prosecutors accused Nguyen of being behind the
 mailer, while his defense attorney argued that Nguyen saw an initial English draft of the text but had nothing more to do with it.

The California attorney general's office, which investigated the letter, did not file criminal charges against Nguyen.

Defense attorney Dean Steward said that should have been the end of the probe and questioned the federal government's interest in the case.

"Why is the FBI sticking their nose into it?'' Steward said after the sentencing hearing.

He said Nguyen will appeal his conviction.

The controversy about the letter erupted three weeks before the Nov. 2, 2006, election. Sanchez beat Nguyen by nearly 24 percentage points to earn her sixth term representing the central Orange County district, which is home to sizable Latino and Vietnamese-American communities.

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