People standing in front of the courthouse in downtown San Jose
San Jose Councilmember Bien Doan (right) next to San Jose Chief Deputy Attorney Maren Clouse, who is representing Doan in a restraining order court hearing on July 9, 2024. Photo by Brandon Pho.

What started as one San Jose councilmember taking out a restraining order against a well-connected Vietnamese American businessman is morphing into a trial that has brought some of Little Saigon’s most well-known figures out to testify.

Councilmember Bien Doan has requested a restraining order against business owner Hai Huynh, which set the stage for Tuesday’s hearing in Santa Clara County Superior Court with Judge Eric Geffon presiding over the case. A surprising list of witnesses were called to the stand, including one notable person who has fallen under the FBI’s microscope in Oakland this year — Cal Waste Solutions CEO David Duong.

In a rare appearance since the federal probe against him went public last month, Duong arrived at the county’s downtown San Jose courthouse to paint Huynh — a bail bonds businessman — as a name that strikes fear in Little Saigon.

“Many people in the community assume he’s the ‘Godfather,’” Duong testified.

Doan, who claims Huynh has threatened him on three different occasions since taking office, said he’s installed metal gates and security cameras at his house, worried that Huynh or his “associates” might get too close to him or his family.

Huynh, 68, is a well-connected leader in the Vietnamese community who owns Le Bail Bonds, runs Tax 101 Solutions to help individuals and businesses with taxes and is a mortgage broker at H&L Realty Inc., according to his LinkedIn profile. He’s former vice president of operations at Bay 101 Casino, but left in 2000, around the time he was indicted for allegedly loansharking, threatening and intimidating witnesses, ordering an assault and having links to organized crime. The charges were later dropped.

Huynh has denied Doan’s allegations.

His attorneys in court have pushed back on Doan’s claims of being threatened by Huynh with remarks such as, “Don’t mess with my brother” — referring to a conflict Doan had with someone who reported to Huynh.

“Only gang members use that term,” Doan testified.

Betty Duong, no relation to David Duong,  who is chief of staff for District 2 County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, was also called to testify. She’s running to replace Chavez who terms out this year. Betty Duong testified she saw Doan and Huynh interact at campaign events she hosted for her supervisor race this year, but never saw any visible disputes or threats.

Other witnesses included Ha Trieu, a community leader and organizer of a local Vietnamese flag-raising ceremony to commemorate the Vietnam War, and Nghe Lu, a Vietnamese media reporter.  No other witnesses were called to testify today.

David Duong testified that he recalled serving as an intermediary between Huynh and Doan at a meeting last September at Paloma Cafe in the Grand Century Shopping Mall. The meeting lasted approximately 10 minutes before Doan said Huynh told him in Vietnamese, “You better be afraid of me.”

In his own testimony, Doan said Huynh told him, “‘The whole community is afraid of me.’ I understood that I was in deep trouble,” Doan said during questioning.

Huynh’s attorneys requested to exclude the threats Doan accused Huynh of making because they were made in Vietnamese and Doan’s court filings only described the threats in English.

Judge Geffon denied that request.

The trial recessed Tuesday afternoon. Witness testimony will continue Wednesday 9 a.m.

Contact Brandon Pho at [email protected] or @brandonphooo on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Editor’s Note: Cal Waste Solutions has donated to San José Spotlight.

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