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home : community : community Friday, April 28, 2017

11/21/2016 3:24:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Dylan Yang Is Sentenced To 13 Years

By Amy Doeun

The 2015 case of Dylan Yang in Wausau, WI has received much attention in the Hmong community, but very little in national news. The case of a confrontation between two boys of color that led to one of them dead and the other behind bars was almost immediately labeled as a case of gang violence by the local media; even as protestors and supporters of Yang traveled to Wausau, urging law enforcement and the justice system to not label the crime or the boys.

Yang (15 at the time of the crime) was convicted of the fatal stabbing of Isaiah Powell (13). On October 19, after a daylong sentencing hearing Yang was given 13 years in jail. According to the Wausau Daily Herald, the hearing included, emotional testimony from Powell's family members as well as defenders and supporters of Yang.

Yang is recorded as telling Marathon County Circuit Judge LaMont Jacobson, "I would do anything to bring him back. If I had a chance I would change places with Isaiah."

Just after 5:00 p.m. he was sentenced to 13 years in prison followed by 17 years of "extended supervision." He was given credit for the nearly two years he has been in prison awaiting trial and later sentencing.

According to the Daily Herald, "The announcement was greeted by sobs from both the victim's family, who linked arms in solidarity, and Yang's. The sentence did amount to a middle ground between the requests of the prosecution and the defense. Yang's attorney had asked for a one-year jail sentence followed by decades of probation. Prosecutors asked Jacobson to send Yang to prison for 25 years followed by 20 years of supervision."

Jacobson said he, "believed Yang in many ways led the gang of boys who confronted Isaiah's group, and he also noted how Yang's brief life was peppered with run-ins with authority marked by fights and crimes." However, reports of the crime say that Yang and his cousin were confronted outside of Yang's home near Powell and a group of his friends brandishing a BB gun. Powell's girlfriend, Aqua Pedraza said she, "told Yang that no one wanted to fight him and had he stayed on his front porch and called police instead of getting a knife on the night of the fight, no one would have been in court Wednesday."

Jacobson addressed Yang saying, "Your actions on that night and the choices you made have left two families devastated."

Prosecutor Leslie Pluster openly referred to both boys as gang members saying, "The stabbing wasn't about a teen trying to defend his friends, but a premeditated fight between two rival gangs."

Witnesses for Yang describe him as a thoughtful and quiet boy with artistic inclinations who struggled with his anger when he was subjected to racial slurs and was a victim of extensive violence and bullying in his life.

Kari Smalkoski, a social scientist researcher in the Twin Cities who interviewed Yang, confirmed Yang and his family's reports of bullying. According to Smalkoski, "He reported being the victim of racial bullying dating back to kindergarten, and that when he was in California he was beaten with a baseball bat."

The Daily Herald reported, "Smalkoski told the court that she has researched bullying among minority groups and found that two, Asians and American Indians, are bullied more than any other." In her own words she said, "Dylan has experienced a lot of trauma in his life that has been unaddressed and unattended to."

Supporters of Yang draw attention to the fact that the police unfairly questioned him without an attorney and that the teen should not have been tried as an adult.

Tou Ger Bennett Xiong has been outspoken about this case from the beginning said, "The injustice in this case is not even about the verdict. It's about the process of the judicial system." Xiong had traveled from the Twin Cities with 20-30 supporters. He said they still hold out hope that Yang will be granted a new trial.




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