ike a time capsule from a 12-year-old chamber of horrors, the videotape
reveals the terrified face of a woman who has been handcuffed and shackled
to a chair in the bedroom of a run-down mountain cabin.
In response, an Asian man slashes at her T-shirt with a knife, ripping it away. His Caucasian partner chides him for destroying a perfectly good shirt. The woman begs her attacker to leave her bra on; he responds by slicing it away with a flick of the wrist.
"You can cry and stuff like the rest of them, but it won't do you no good," says the Asian man. "We are pretty, ha ha, coldhearted, so to speak."
The tape isn't the latest Hollywood slasher flick, and you can't rent it at your corner video store. In fact, it has never been publicly shown, its contents revealed only by transcripts pieced together by court officials and stored in the most extensive criminal case file in California history. Two of its three starring players are dead. The third is still waiting for his day in court.
To most Californians, the name Charles Chitat Ng resonates in the same way as a list of other dimly remembered bogey men of the past; Charles Manson, Richard Ramirez, Juan Corona, The Zodiac. Ng's real claim to fame isn't the brutality of the murders he and partner Leonard Lake are accused of committing, nor even the number of people they allegedly killed in their Gold Country sex den and torture chamber estimated at about 19. After all, James Huberty erased more than that in a single day in 1984 when he opened fire with an Uzi submachine gun in a McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, Calif., slaughtering 21 people.
No, Ng will go down in California history as the man who cost taxpayers more money to try than any other criminal defendant ever, including O.J. Simpson. Ten years after his capture in Calgary, Canada on a shoplifting and assault charge, Ng is now sitting in a maximum security cell in the Orange County Jail, waiting for a trial that is scheduled for Sept. 6, 1996.
But don't expect to see him on Court TV come September; his court-appointed attorney, Orange County Deputy Public Defender William Kelley, told the trial judge that he would need at least two-and-a-half years to prepare for the case from the time he received the file in July 1995. If the judge grants him the extension he will surely seek in September, that means Charlie Ng will wait until some time in early 1998 to face a jury.
Meanwhile, the State of California has spent an estimated $6.6 million so far on the extradition battle with Canada to bring Ng to the U.S. for trial and the various legal maneuverings that have taken place since he returned to the States in 1991. And the price tag will only mount during the trial, and the inevitable appeals to follow.
Why the delay, and the tremendous expense? Attorneys cite a variety of factors, but the consensus is that the sheer volume of the evidence, combined with Ng's own shrewd manipulation of the American and Canadian criminal justice systems, have created something of a legal nightmare.
There are six tons of documents in Ng's case file, which is so vast that it had to be transported from Calaveras County to Santa Ana in a big rig truck after the case was transferred in April 1994. It consists of 350 boxes crammed with over 100,000 pages of police reports and witness statements, in addition to all the legal paperwork from motions and assorted filings. PAGE 2