Palo Alto cleaver attacker gets plea deal

Chunren Chen could get five to 12 years for Jade Palace Restaurant attack

Chunren Chen, the restaurant worker who hacked a fellow employee with a meat cleaver during an argument at a Palo Alto restaurant in 2009, reached a plea deal on Monday that could send him to prison for five to 12 years.

Chen, 64, has admitted he attacked co-worker Zezhong Yang at the Jade Palace restaurant in Palo Alto on May 27, 2009. Records show he had a previous arrest for a "similar" assault with a deadly weapon in Alameda County in 1997.

He was charged with attempted murder and aggravated mayhem for the attack on Zezhong Yang, a chef, after he struck him several times with a meat cleaver in the restaurant's kitchen.

Yang sustained a nearly 5-inch gash to his face and a cut to his carotid artery. He had lacerations to his back, shoulder, thumb and neck and a fractured wrist, police reported.

Chen faced life in prison if convicted.

But his case proved to be more complicated than a simple crime of rage. At a May 8, 2010, hearing, it was revealed that Chen had been tortured and "re-educated" by the Communist regime in China during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.

Chen later had a mental breakdown and was hospitalized, according to the judge's notes. A psychotherapist who examined him in December 2009 concluded that Chen likely has post-traumatic stress disorder, attention-deficit hyperactive disorder and anxiety disorders, according to the notes.

Chen escaped from China and went to Spain and Bolivia prior to coming to the United States, according to the documents. He immigrated without documentation to California around 1996. He worked at both Jade Palace and Ten Fu, a Menlo Park restaurant.

He was arrested in 1997 in Alameda County for assault with a deadly weapon, in what was described as a "similar incident" at another restaurant, the notes indicate. The case was not prosecuted, police said.

In the 2009 incident, Chen admitted to Palo Alto police that he struck Yang several times with the cleaver but claimed self-defense, police reported.

He said he and Yang had animosity between them since he started working as a busboy at the restaurant two months prior. Yang did not treat him with respect, he said.

Chen said Yang hit him with the broomstick and he swung the meat cleaver at Yang's face in response.

Chen's conviction under the plea deal will be for attempted murder, his attorney, Ruben Munoz, said.

"I think the judge will have an open mind. he doesn't know what sentence he will hand down," Munoz said of Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Douglas Southard.

Munoz said he hopes that Southard will choose leniency and will sentence Chen to five years. With time already served, Chen would remain in prison for about two more years, he said.

Chen "is looking forward to finishing his sentence and to going to China," he said. Chen is an undocumented immigrant, according to court papers.

The mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon and premeditation charges were dropped in large part because of concerns about Chen's age and health issues, Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney James Demertzis said.

Yang, the victim, also found testifying at the preliminary haring emotionally taxing. "He wanted to avoid a trial," Demertzis said.

Chen agreed to admit to the attempted murder and infliction of great bodily injury, he said.

Judge Southard indicated during Monday's haring that an eight-year sentence could be appropriate, Demertzis said.

Chen's sentencing will take place June 20.

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Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 19, 2011 at 12:53 pm

>> five to 12 years.

Are you kidding me, for twice trying to cut open another person?
How close was that to killing someone, and why didn't it?
Anyone who can get mad enough at someone to go at them with
a meat cleaver really needs to be away from people don't they?
Am I missing something?

Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Apr 19, 2011 at 12:59 pm

5 years for trying to chop a coworker's head off because the "didn't show respect"? There must be at least a million people in this country with ADHD, PTSD, and anxiety. Do they all get a pass? How about sending this guy back to China.

Like this comment
Posted by Cynicalese
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 19, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Does having a lot of criminals living in public and destroying people's trust in justice serve some larger social engineering purpose, such as contributing to the enervation of the public so it doesn't have the political energy to fight outrageous political changes being instituted by our military junta?

Like this comment
Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 19, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Thanks, Palo Alto Weekly folks, for updating us on this case. So often, we never hear the aftermath of stuff like this. The article did say he was returning to China. I agree with one of the posters, that law enforcement need to escort him to the ship after he's released from prison.

Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Apr 19, 2011 at 3:56 pm

The article only said Chen "is looking forward to finishing his sentence and to going to China", not that he was being deported. The State of California will spend $500k housing this guy during his sentence, and there's no reason to expect he'll actually return to China once he gets out. He's been here illegally for 15 years, despite having been arrested for a "similar incident" in 1997.

Like this comment
Posted by carol
a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 19, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Why wasn't he deported in 1997? Would have saved serious injury to his recent victim.

What is the penalty for hiring undocumented workers? How much is Jade Palace going to pay?

Deport Chen now! He needs to be off the streets, out of kitchens, & in China where his home country can take care of his "health needs." We're not properly taking care of a lot of our own citizens, so why this dude?

Like this comment
Posted by Scared&Disgusted
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Get him OUT OF OUR STATE, and out of the United States!!!! Now!

Like this comment
Posted by buried headline
a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2011 at 9:44 am

buried headline

never argue with someone with a cleaver in his hand

Like this comment
Posted by taxpayer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2011 at 9:41 am

Be SURE to deport him after he serves his sentence, minimal though that may be...this is not the kind of person we want in this country

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2011 at 5:47 pm

I have to admit, when I heard about this in the news I was really wondering how the heck does this kind of thing happen? What could make someone so angry that they would stab someone with a meat cleaver?

Does anyone know anything more about this case or can explain this. And then I recall that sometime maybe within a year one way or the other a different person in the news threw hot oil at someone else and burned them too I think.

Like this comment
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2011 at 12:41 am

Stabbings, shootings. . . this stuff happens in other towns like EPA and Richmond frequently. Why is it so hard to believe? Because it occured in Palo Alto? It is probably difficult for intellectuals to believe, but not everyone has self-control.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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