Man gets 69 years for killing fellow hunter
Prosecutors say prejudice led James Nichols to shoot and stab Cha
Nichols told law enforcement officials he acted in self-defense
after Vang shot him
Police recorded Nichols as saying that Hmong people are bad and
Cha Vang was born in Laos and came to the U.S. with his family in
MARINETTE, Wisconsin (AP) -- A white hunter convicted of killing a
Hmong man while both stalked squirrels was sentenced to the maximum 69
years in prison Wednesday by a judge who rejected his claims of
James Nichols is escorted from the courtroom Wednesday after being
sentenced for killing hunter Cha Vang.
Prosecutors said prejudice was James Nichols' true motive in
shooting Cha Vang and stabbing him five times in the neck.
He was recorded in police interviews as saying that Hmong people
are bad, mean and "kill everything and that they go for anything that
In court Wednesday, Nichols turned to Vang's widow, Pang Vue, and
said, "I am very sorry for what happened." She bent over, put her face
in her hands and began to weep.
Nichols paused, then added, "It has all been emotional for us, and
I am greatly sorry for that."
The 29-year-old Peshtigo man's apology had less effect on Marinette
County Circuit Judge David Miron: "Frankly, I think it is too little
too late," he said.
Nichols, a onetime sawmill worker, was convicted last month of
second-degree intentional homicide, hiding a corpse and being a felon
in possession of a firearm in Vang's death.
The body of the Green Bay man, a 30-year-old father of five, was
found hidden under a log January 6 in a wildlife refuge where he and
Nichols had been hunting separately.
The death rekindled racial tensions in northwest Wisconsin, where a
Hmong deer hunter fatally shot six white hunters during a
confrontation three years ago. Chai Soua Vang of St. Paul, Minnesota
-- no relation to Cha Vang -- is serving life sentences.
In arguing for the maximum sentence for Nichols, prosecutor Roy
Korte called Cha Vang a quiet, kind and loving man killed for "no good
reason, other than anger and hate."
Miron said Nichols' actions were "very scary" and noted his history
of violence, juvenile record and previous conviction for burglary.
"It tells me you are a dangerous person," the judge said. "The
community needs as much protection as it can possibly get. The best we
can do is make sure you can never do harm again."
Korte said Nichols has "essentially a life sentence."
Defense attorney Kent Hoffmann, who had sought a 15-year prison
sentence, said Nichols will appeal.
Sheriff's deputies arrested Nichols after he went to a hospital
January 5 with a .22-caliber bullet lodged in his right hand and an
injury to his other hand -- about the same time members of Vang's
hunting party reported him missing.
Nichols did not testify during his weeklong trial, but the jury
heard tape recordings in which he told law enforcement officials he
acted in self-defense after Vang shot him. Nichols said the fight
started after he told Vang to leave because he was interfering with
Nichols said he ducked behind a tree and took a "wild shot" at Vang
with a shotgun. He said Vang shot him again before Nichols rushed him,
took away his gun and stabbed him in the neck with a pocketknife.
Nichols' father, Dan, told the judge he believed his son acted in
"I certainly would have defended myself as best I could, even if it
meant taking another man's life," Dan Nichols said.
Miron joined prosecutors in rejecting the defendant's version of
"I believe he did fire a shot at you, but it was in response to
yours," the judge told James Nichols. "I am sorry, but I can't believe
anything you say as far as what happened with this incident."
Vue, Vang's widow, submitted a statement that was read before
Nichols was sentenced. She called him "heartless" and said she has
found it difficult to perform even simple household duties since her
husband of 13 years died.
"I've been an emotional wreck and often time suffered from
blackouts because I cannot comprehend why James Nichols decided to
take the life of my husband," she wrote. "I see myself stuck in a dark
tunnel and I cannot see the light."
Vang's uncle Kou Vang, of St. Paul, said the family was "very, very
pleased" with the sentence but added, "It is of little consolation to
"Mr. Nichols can go outside. He can feel the wind blow," Vang said
and broke into tears. "He can see his family. He can talk to his
family. But ours is gone forever."
Cha Vang was born in Laos, fled to a refugee camp in Thailand and
immigrated to the U.S. with his family in 2004.
Several hundred thousand Hmong fled Laos for the United States
after the communists seized control in 1975 following the Vietnam War.
Many settled in Minnesota and Wisconsin. E-mail to a friend
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