Tam Minh Le, 44, accused of participating two years ago in beating and blindfolding three men in his Southwest Philadelphia garage and later throwing them into the Schuylkill to die, testified Tuesday that he, too, was a victim.
Le took the stand in his own defense at his double-homicide trial and told a Common Pleas Court jury that he had been tied up in his garage, and that he was put, along with the other three men, in the back of a van and driven around.
Before dawn on Aug. 27, 2014, just north of the rowing grandstands on Kelly Drive, the other three men were repeatedly stabbed, then thrown into the river. The bodies of brothers Vu "Kevin" Huynh, 31, and Viet Huynh, 28, weighted down with buckets of tar, were found that morning in the river.
"I never killed them. I never touched them," Le testified under questioning by his attorney, Daniel Conner.
The third man thrown into the river, Tan Voong, now 24, who was a friend of the Huynh brothers, testified that Le was one of the assailants who dumped them in the river.
On Tuesday, Le, a bald man dressed in a black suit, called Voong a liar.
Prosecutors contend that the slaying of the Huynh brothers was over a $100,000 unpaid debt that they owed Le and his associates. Evidence in the trial has shown that the Huynh brothers were drug dealers.
During cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron attacked Le's account of what happened on Aug. 26 and 27, and in the months before his arrest.
Le, originally from Vietnam, lived on 72nd Street near Grays Avenue with a girlfriend and five kids.
He said the Huynhs were close to him. About three days before their deaths, he said, they told him they owed $200,000 to other men and needed his help.
He testified that he could give them only $6,000 and that on the night of Aug. 26, the Huynhs showed up at Le's house with two other men who demanded the money.
He contended that Voong, who was to help bring some cash, later showed up with two other men and a gun. That, he said, started a fight, and he, the Huynh brothers, and Voong ended up getting tied up in his garage by the men who were owed the money.
He contended that the other men put him, the Huynh brothers, and Voong in a van and that, after driving around, they transferred him to a car, and then brought him home. He said he did not realize the other three men had been thrown into the river - and that the Huynh brothers died - until a few days later.
His cellphone placed him by Kelly Drive about 1:50 a.m. Aug. 27.
Le was arrested by federal authorities in January 2015 in a motel in Ashland, Va. He said he had gone on the run after the Huynh brothers' murders because he didn't want authorities to mistakenly link him to their deaths and send him back to prison. Le spent time in a New York state prison after being convicted in a 1993 killing in Rochester, N.Y.