Lawyer in China mob trial gets 1½ years on appeal

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Associated Press

Posted on February 9, 2010 at 4:08 AM

BEIJING (AP) — The lawyer for an alleged mob boss in southwest China was given a reduced 1 1/2-year prison term Tuesday during his appeal on charges that he helped his client falsely claim torture by police during interrogation, the court said.

But the Beijing Evening News reported that Li Zhuang yelled out in the court after the punishment was announced that he only confessed during the appeal after a "relevant official" told him that doing so would get him a suspended sentence.

The Chongqing Municipality No. 1 Intermediate People's Court upheld Li's conviction but reduced his original sentence by one year because he repeatedly admitted to the charges against him during the latest trial, the court said on its Web site, without referring to any kind of plea bargain.

Li apparently believed he had struck a deal with prosecutors ahead of the sentencing, the Beijing Evening News reported. He spoke out angrily, saying "I didn't confess, the confession during this appeal was fake," the paper reported, citing his lawyer Gao Zicheng.

"Li Zhuang yelled in the court, 'Before the trial started, a relevant official promised that as long as I confessed, they would give me a suspended sentence'," Gao was quoted as saying.

It was not clear what Li's next steps were, if any. Gao was on a flight and could not immediately be reached on his cell phone. Phones rang unanswered in the propaganda department at the Chongqing Municipality No. 1 Intermediate People's Court.

Li's client, Gong Gangmo, was charged with organized crime offenses last November. Authorities said Li told Gong to claim he was tortured during police interrogation, then helped bribe a policeman to give false evidence of the fabricated accusation.

The mega-city of Chongqing has a long history of underworld activities and was the target of a government crackdown on organized crime last year. The campaign highlighted how entrenched criminal gangs have become throughout China, and the deep-seated connections between gangsters, corrupt officials and police.

The court case against Gong was still pending.

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