THE BRONX (PIX11) — A Bronx parolee was indicted on assault charges Thursday for allegedly sucker-punching a man and putting him into a coma.
Bui Van Phu, 55, allegedly slugged Jesus Cortes, 52, outside a restaurant on Aug. 12, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said. Cortes fell to the ground. He went into a coma at the hospital and suffered a skull fracture, a broken eye socket and a fracture to his left cheek.
“Fortunately, the victim is progressing in his recovery,” Clark said, noting that Cortes woke up from his coma.
Van Phu was on parole for a sexual abuse case and a criminal possession of a firearm case when he allegedly attacked Cortes. He was arraigned Thursday on second-degree assault charges. Bail was set at $100,000 cash, $300,000 bond or $500,000 partially secured bond
The case caught the attention of Gov. Kathy Hochul, who criticized the charges filed against Van Phu. Police had charged him with attempted murder after his Aug. 17 arrest, but the charges were downgraded by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office to misdemeanor assault charges. Misdemeanor assault charges do not require bail, but Clark’s office asked the judge for supervised release in the case. Van Phu was remanded for violating his parole on Aug. 23.
“That was a horrific situation on all fronts. Our team has been in contact with the Bronx District Attorney’s Office to talk about the actual charges that were filed,” Hochul previously said.
On Thursday, Clark explained why Van Phu was initially charged with misdemeanor assault in court and why he’s now being charged with a felony. She said despite the attempted murder charge from the NYPD, her office determined the charge couldn’t be sustained based on the evidence at the time.
Their initial review of the evidence had prosecutors charge Van Phu with assault in the third degree, a misdemeanor, but the office continued to investigate, looking at medical records and video while interviewing witnesses.
“Taking the time to determine the merits of elevated charges is how we ensure integrity in our process – by weighing the evidence and seeing where it leads, rather than putting forth the most serious charges and seeing what sticks,” Clark said. “In short, it is not about what charges we can bring but rather what charges we can prove through credible evidence. We do not rush to judgment. We want to be certain that we can meet our burden of proof.”