A radio host who during a school board meeting accused a Fresno Unified teacher of appearing in pornography was arrested Tuesday in Fresno County Superior Court for allegedly assaulting an elderly man involved in a separate defamation lawsuit.
The plaintiff’s lawyer, who said he witnessed the beating, said the host jumped out of a wheelchair he uses to gain sympathy during court to savagely beat the victim.
Fresno County sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti said that Pao Xiong, 60, was booked into Fresno County Jail Tuesday on suspicion of felony battery and elder abuse. Tou Lee, 58, and Houa Thao, 55, were also arrested.
Botti said the victim, identified only as a 67-year-old man, was taking a picture of Xiong, who became upset and started to get physical with him. Xiong eventually threw the man to the ground, got on top of him and began punching him. Lee and Thao then started kicking the victim in the head, Botti said.
Lee also faces battery and elder abuse charges, but Thao has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon for using a heavy work boot to kick the victim.
The victim was transported to the hospital after losing consciousness and suffering a laceration that later required stitches.
Xiong and the other two men were attending a mandatory mediation session in the B.F. Sisk Courthouse when the alleged attack occurred. A spokeswoman for the court said Xiong was named as the defendant in four defamation cases scheduled for mediation Tuesday. All the parties showed up, but the court proceedings did not happen.
Michael Elder, the attorney representing the four plaintiffs suing Xiong, said his clients were in a nearby conference room waiting for Xiong’s arrival when the assault occurred. Although only four people are named in the suits, Elder said that 51 people are actually claiming defamation against Xiong. They decided to just file four cases for the four Hmong tribes defamed by Xiong instead of on an individual basis.
“(Xiong) and his friends were beating the living tar out of this guy,” Elder said. The attorney jumped in to help break it up.
Elder said that Xiong has been showing up to court dates in a wheelchair to gain sympathy. He said he is certain that Xiong does not need a wheelchair and plans to present evidence to that fact in court.
After Elder pulled Xiong off of the victim, he said Xiong stood and positioned himself to hit the attorney without any physical strain, then exaggeratedly limped back to his wheelchair.
“(The victim) might have been killed if I didn’t jump in,” Elder said. “I am usually a criminal defense attorney. I’ve seen a lot of things in court and on video. But this was the worst thing I have ever seen.”
Xiong hosts a Hmong-language broadcast that has drawn at least five defamation suits against him.
Xiong was recently in the news after Fresno Unified teacher Mai Summer Vue sued the district for allowing him to speak at a board meeting, where he later falsely accused her of acting in pornography. A jury found in favor of Fresno Unified.
Elder said he previously represented Vue in a defamation case against Xiong. He believes that case was settled last week. He said Tuesday he had no plans to settle the other four cases, which he intends to take to a jury trial.