Zain Dean at large, appeal rejected for cohorts

By Darren Tobia ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — As the hunt for one of the nation’s most-wanted fugitives Zain Taj Dean presses on, the fate of his accomplices, who pleaded guilty to helping him escape following conviction in a deadly hit-and-run, was gaveled out by the Taipei High Court on Thursday in a private, storm-delayed judgment. Despite pleas for the “harshest penalty,” the prosecutors’ appeal was rejected. Upholding the district court sentences, Tung Yu-chi, lead accessory in crafting Dean’s disguised departure, was issued a five-month commutable prison term. Christopher David Churcher, a British expatriate and Dean’s former employee was issued seven months behind bars, or a fine, for supplying the passport and filing a false report to authorities. Tung, 26, and Churcher, 33, maintain that Dean was wrongly convicted and was framed in a collaborative fix by the Daan Police Precinct and the Minghang Bar, which supplied a valet to Dean on the night of the collision. “One person has already died because of this accident,” Tung, a Kinmen native, told The China Post, regarding her decision to conspire with her live-in boyfriend whom she began dating at age 19. “I didn’t want anyone else to die.” Tung’s claims that Dean, in the aftermath of his upheld guilty verdict last July, became suicidal, muttering that he wanted to “go looking for” his late mother, were lambasted by prosecutors. “Whether or not Zain Taj Dean was suicidal has nothing to do with the alleged facts in this case,” said prosecutor Chen Zheng-fen. Although serving as the chief go-between in a plot hatched by Dean, and later Churcher, Tung, who initially lied to prosecutors about her role, still holds that she was unaware, at the onset, of the purpose of the tasks she was carrying out. “Before leaving, Zain relied on me to help him deal with things, just like when we worked together,” said Tung, who was hired at Dean’s former company, NCL Media Taiwan, after they began dating. “I did what he asked me to do.” Dean told her to book the plane ticket in Churcher’s name because he does not speak Mandarin, Tung said. Days after booking the ticket, however, she said she realized Dean’s intent, noting that he became evasive and began inquiring about makeup. “Actually, he never told me.” Pressed by Presiding Judge Su Su-e, Tung admitted to entering a branch of Lion Travel on Aug. 8, and leaving the agent a phone number, according to a witness, and Churcher’s name as the one who booked the economy-class ticket for an EVA Air Bangkok-bound flight. Dean, daubed with whitening cream to appear Caucasian, would board this flight six days later. In shrill tones, prosecutors portrayed Tung and Churcher as miscreants that showed no remorse and whose claims of Dean’s innocence are baseless. “You are incorrigible, there is no video evidence,” said prosecutor Lin Xiou-tao, cross-referencing Dean’s charge that key video evidence had been suppressed during his trials.

Penitence — the lack of which became grounds for Dean’s aggravated sentence in his appeal trial — posed a formidable tightrope for Tung and Churcher to sidle having painted their crimes as heroic. While Tung cowered, whispering pleas so meek that a court clerk delivered her a microphone, Churcher defied. “I am not responsible for the death of that man, and I don’t think my friend is responsible for the death of that man,” said Churcher to the court. “My intention was not to cause suffering, but to bring the great suffering that Dean was going through to an end.”