Bui Van Phu, the New York swamp suspect, was posting $100,000 in bail

An ex-convict who allegedly punched a stranger outside a Bronx restaurant and put him in a coma was being held on $100,000 bail on Thursday after prosecutors eventually charged him with felony charges.

Bui Van Phu, 55, was charged with second-degree assault in the shocking attack of 52-year-old Jesus Cortes outside Fuego Tipico restaurant on August 12.

Phu, a convicted sex offender on life probation, was initially released without bail in last month’s horrific fight – sparking outrage that led Gov. Kathy Hochul to say she would intervene to lock him up.

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark claimed Thursday that her then-office could only charge Phu with assault and harassment, which were not eligible for bail and led to the ex-con’s release.

Clark said her office then amassed enough evidence of second-degree assault in the case, a felony eligible for bail.

A picture of Bui Van Phu in court with his attorney Casey Trimble.
Ex-Bronx convict Bui Van Phu is facing felony charges after he allegedly punched a stranger and put him into a coma.
Brigitte Stelzer

Bronx Supreme Court Justice George Villegas on Thursday set Phus’ bail at $100,000 in cash, $300,000 bail or $500,000 partially secured bail.

Phu’s defense attorney blamed Hochul for his client’s plight during the hearing, claiming his case was exaggerated because she stepped in last month to have him arrested for a state probation violation.

“This is overstated, and it’s overstated because of a politician’s interference,” defense attorney Casey Trimble told Villegas during Phu’s arraignment on the assault charge.

A picture of Jesus Cortes before he was attacked.

Jesus Cortes was attacked on August 12 outside the Fuego Tipico restaurant in the Bronx.

A screenshot of Phu knocking Cortes to the ground.

Phu was allegedly caught on video punching Cortes to the ground.

A screenshot of Phu knocking Cortes to the ground.

Phu was charged with second degree assault.

“This was originally charged as a misdemeanor,” Trimble said. “People have agreed to a supervised release on this matter. And then, during an election year, Governor Hochul got involved, made some phone calls and escalated everything.”

He claimed the governor called prosecutors and parole officers and “forced everyone to shake hands.”

“I hit someone and he’s in the hospital,” Phu reportedly told parole officer Denise Payano, who testified at a court hearing in the case last month. “I don’t know if he’s dead. The police are looking for me.”

Phu was arrested after his parole officer recognized him from the footage – and he later called her to confess after police released his photo and approached.

Police charged Phu with attempted murder only to watch as prosecutors reduced the charges to offenses ineligible for bail, claiming that was all the evidence admissible at the time.

A picture of Bui Van Phu.

Phu’s defense attorney during the hearing accused Hochul of hyping his client’s case when she stepped in to have Phu arrested for violating a state probation.

A picture of Bui Van Phu and attorney Casey Trimble in court.

Bronx Supreme Court Justice George Villegas set Phus’ bail at $100,000.

Prosecutors insisted on Thursday that their office could not initially prove the charge of attempted murder. Prosecutors later investigated, she said, asking the grand jury to upgrade the misdemeanor charge against Phu to a felony.

Clark denied that the bureau gave in to pressure from Albany to increase the charges.

“The governor has contacted our office and at the time the governor’s office was informed that we are continuing the investigation and are considering dismissing the case,” Clark said. “But again, we were still collecting evidence.

“This defender can have his opinion,” she added. “I know the evidence I have and there are cases too [that] were also increased. He didn’t mention that.

“It depends on the case and what I did was make sure we investigated and followed the evidence where it led us to go before the grand jury and file further charges. It wasn’t because of political pressure. It was because of what I had to do.” Bui Van Phu, the New York swamp suspect, was posting $100,000 in bail


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