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October 24, 2014

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Taiwan gang enforcer gets life in prison in Las Vegas slaying

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Julie Jacobson / AP

Xiao Ye Bai reacts as he reads a statement to the court during his sentencing, Tuesday, March 5, 2013, in Las Vegas. The 26-year-old Chinese immigrant, convicted of being an enforcer for a Taiwan-based criminal gang, will spend the rest of his life in a Nevada prison for killing one person and wounding two others in a bloody knife attack in a Las Vegas karaoke bar in July 2009.

LAS VEGAS — A 26-year-old Chinese immigrant who was convicted of being an enforcer for a Taiwan-based gang was sentenced Tuesday to spend the rest of his life in a Nevada prison for killing one person and wounding two others in a bloody knife attack in a Las Vegas karaoke bar almost four years ago.

Xiao Ye Bai's tears fell on his written apology as he told a Clark County District Court judge through a Mandarin interpreter that he knew his sorrow couldn't atone for his crimes including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, conspiracy and extortion.

"Your honor, I understand what my final sentence will be," he said.

Bai's fate had been decided by the Nevada state court jury that convicted him in November of all nine felony charges including capital murder in the July 2009 slaying of Wen Jun "James" Li at the Forbes KTV bar and restaurant.

The same jurors in December decided to spare Bai from the death penalty.

Judge Michael Villani on Tuesday called the attack "senseless" and added a sentence of 32 to 85 years for Bai's convictions on felony charges of kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, extortionate collection of a debt, extortion, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder with a deadly weapon, and burglary with a weapon.

"You endangered numerous people in the karaoke bar ... who were in the wrong place at the wrong time," the judge said.

During trial, the jury was told that Bai searched for Li for several days prior to the attack, which investigators said stemmed from a $10,000 gambling debt owed to a criminal gang called United Bamboo.

When Bai learned that Li was at the karaoke bar, Bai's then-girlfriend, Pei "Nikki" Pei, drove him to the bar several miles west of the Las Vegas Strip.

Bai, dressed in black, went inside, where jurors were told Li saw Bai coming before grabbing another man, Jian Guo, and pushing him toward Bai.

Guo was cut on his arm before Bai caught Li fleeing down a hallway and stabbed him 32 times.

A woman in the bar, Lin Yao, was stabbed four times when she tried to intervene, thinking that Bai was punching Li, according to testimony.

Defense lawyers Robert Langford and Robert Draskovich never denied Bai attacked Li. They instead argued he didn't intend to kill him. They said after the sentencing hearing in December that they were satisfied the jury spared Bai's life.

"We wanted to keep him off death row," Draskovich said outside court Tuesday.

Pei, who initially faced the same charges as Bai, pleaded guilty before trial to reduced felony charges of accessory to murder for driving Bai to and from the club the night of the killing. She testified against Bai but said she didn't know for several days afterward that Li was dead.

Pei, 26, was sentenced last month to two years' probation.

Langford and Draskovich said they intend to appeal Bai's conviction and sentence.

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  1. The cost to house and feed him for the next 60-70 years vs. the cost of a bullet to put him to death. I do not understand why he is kept alive.