- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2000

A judge sentenced 75-year-old Timothy Chang to life in prison yesterday for shooting a personal rival across an office conference table in Rockville, Md.
The decision came after an extraordinarily long 2 and 1/2 days of sentencing hearings, with debates hinging on the value of one's good name in the Chinese community.
"I am very sorry," Chang said as he was sentenced yesterday for murdering Jason Chou, 51, a Rockville businessman, in broad daylight May 18. "I had no choice."
"[This was] as classical a case of first-degree murder as can be found in the annals of law," said Montgomery County Circuit Judge S. Michael Pincus. "He considered what he did was a noble act."
The Chinese culture attaches sacred importance to a person's name, and that was one discussion among prosecutors and defense attorneys that stretched the sentencing hearing to 2 and 1/2 days the longest sentencing that veteran Montgomery County court observers can remember.
Chang pleaded guilty to firing a .38 caliber revolver until empty, reloading it and firing it once again to kill Mr. Chou in his medical imaging firm at 9700 Great Seneca Highway, west of Rockville and near the police training academy.
Chang, of McLean, Va., was highly regarded in the Chinese community for playing the complicated Chinese violin, participating in the Chinese opera society, writing eight books and being a watercolor painter. His wife died in 1995, and they had no children.
From evidence and a long, videotaped confession, Chang claimed that Mr. Chou falsely accused Chang of carrying on an affair with his wife, Patricia Chou. The Chous, with three children, were having marital difficulties and she was being treated by psychiatrists.
Mr. Chou tape-recorded conversations that demanded Chang stop seeing Mrs. Chou, who was his godchild. Mr. Chou also threatened to publicly accuse Chang of an affair, which would destroy his good name, and sought $650,000 in trust funds for Mrs. Chou and their children.
"He was going to teach Mr. Chang a lesson," said defense attorney James Salter III, claiming the $650,000 was extortion. "That was the motivation. Mr. Chou wanted to teach Mr. Chang a lesson."
Assistant State's Attorney Cheryl McCally quoted from Chang's confession: "After I shoot him, I felt peaceful. I never feel so peaceful… . This man I hate. I do not feel bad."
"Clearly, there are strong overtones to this case of a cultural nature, which motivated both of them," Judge Pincus said. "I have never had a case such as this. I've never had a case that sentencing took so long."
Judge Pincus recited the events that proved the murder was premeditated. Chang applied for a gun permit on May 11. He bought the five-shot revolver and took target practice for five hours the next two days. On May 18, he put the loaded pistol, extra ammunition and his medication in a briefcase and went to Mr. Chou's office.
After the shooting, Chang went to the reception area, told the receptionist to call police and sat down to await the officers. He readily confessed that afternoon and has been in jail since.
Defense attorney Judy Catterton argued for a sentence that would allow Chang to be confined to the secure Mission Lodge in San Gabriel, Calif., because of his age, high blood pressure, four previous heart attacks, diabetes and hypertension. His only relatives live nearby.
Mr. Salter said the Mission Lodge would be appropriate because it would punish Chang by stopping his penchant for world travel and participation in the arts. He said Chang had performed good works for society for 74 and 1/2 years.
But Mrs. McCally argued for a state prison sentence, saying "He took away from [Mr. Chou] that right to live to the age of 75 and die a natural death."
Judge Pincus said, "Mission Lodge is not appropriate." He said he would recommend that Chang be sent to Patuxent Institution at Jessup, a part of Maryland's correction system that specializes in rehabilitation, especially mental treatment.
The defense attorneys filed a motion for reconsideration of the sentence.

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