Murder and conspiracy charges were dismissed Thursday against a couple because prosecutors did not present enough evidence to a grand jury, a district judge ruled Thursday.
Authorities alleged that Jacky Wang and Li “Sophia” Lu set up Wen Jun “James” Li for Xiao Ye Bai and his girlfriend, Pei “Nikki” Pei, at a local karaoke bar in July. Bai and Pei allegedly had tried to extort $10,000 from Li, and when he didn’t pay up, Bai fatally stabbed Li in the middle of the busy bar on Jones Boulevard, wounding two bystanders in the process, Las Vegas police said.
Judge Michael Villani agreed with defense attorneys that prosecutors did not show that Wang and Lu contacted Bai and Pei on July 6 knowing that they would bring harm to or kill Li.
“The state wants me to draw an inference upon one assumption, upon another assumption, upon another assumption for these two defendants,” Villani said during the hearing. “I don’t think the state has met their burden for these two defendants.”
Prosecutors argued that Wang and Lu, who lived with Bai and Pei, were aware of the extortion attempt and that Bai, who sources say has ties to Asian gangs, planned on harming Li to get the money.
Prosecutor Marc DiGiacomo had argued whether Wang and Li knew harm would come to Li is something for a jury to decide, not a judge.
Lu’s attorney, John Momot, said her only involvement was making an “innocent” phone call. He said his client was drunk and throwing up in a bathroom at the karaoke bar and called Wang to come pick her up.
During the call, Lu told Wang that Li was at the bar and Wang should tell Bai.
“This girl had no knowledge of what was about to happen … has nothing to do with this case, except … an innocent phone call that is made without any knowledge of what is going to happen.”
Special Public Defender David Schieck, argued that his client, Wang, also did not have knowledge that Bai was going to harm Li.
Schieck said Wang believed Li owed Bai money and when he learned from Lu where Li was, he passed on the information to Bai.
“There is absolutely nothing in this record that Mr. Wang ever knew that a crime was going to be committed in this bar,” Schieck said.
Villani said the state failed to present slight or marginal evidence that the two defendants knew Li was going to be killed as a result of their calls to Bai and Pei.
DiGiacomo said the district attorney’s office would likely appeal Villani’s decision.
Although the charges were dismissed, Wang remains in custody because he faces extradition to California on other criminal charges.
Villani on Thursday denied motions to dismiss charges submitted by attorneys for Bai and Pei.
The two defendants are charged with multiple felonies, including murder with use of a deadly weapon, extortion, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit murder, and burglary.
Bai also faces two counts of attempted murder with a deadly weapon. He could receive the death penalty if he’s convicted in Li’s death.
Bai and Pei remain in custody at the Clark County Detention Center.
Bai also faces murder charges stemming from a shooting in San Gabriel, Calif.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@review journal.com or 702-380-1039.