Two Sentenced, Judge Laments Death of Young Woman: 'Why Didn't They Walk Away'

Two Sentenced, Judge Laments Death of Young Woman: 'Why Didn't They Walk Away'

Candace Marie Brito and Vanesa Tapia Zavala were sentenced to six years in prison for the senseless beating to death of Annie Kim Pham after a scuffle broke out just after midnight January 18 outside of a Santa Ana nightclub.

According to the Orange County register, a person in Brito and Zavala’s group bumped into a person in Pham’s group triggering a chaotic brawl. Although Pham threw the first punch, a merciless kicking of Pham by Brito and Zavala left her on life support systems in the hospital where several days later she died.

The incident prompted nationwide discussions about the onlookers simply watching and recording the scrap on their cellphones and not stepping in to break up the fight. Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals, however, thought that the fight itself should never have happened.

“Why didn’t they walk away? Why didn’t they all just walk away?” the judge asked during the sentencing. “These were all funny, smart, bright young women with no prior involvement in the criminal justice system. … If any of you had just swallowed your pride and walked away, we wouldn’t be here.” 

The Register said that bystanders used their cellphones to record the brawl and many of the pictures and videos ended up online rendering the incident a national social media melee. Initially, rumors surfaced that someone “photobombing” a group snapshot caused the fight. Others said that the fight was racially motivated. Authorities indicated that both of these perceptions were false.

Judge Goethals lamented that the fiasco is a “sad commentary” on the social evolution of the community and the increase of online social media. “It’s every parent’s worst nightmare playing out in real time, with the help of social media,” he opined. 

U-T San Diego reported that Brito and Zavala’s sentencing was generous by avoiding second degree murder charges.  Attorney, Michael Molfetta, said after the hearing.”I told (Brito), ‘You don’t know this yet, but you won. One day when you get out, sooner rather than later, you’ll realize you could have spent the rest of your life in jail.”