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Meet Thien Ho

As a refugee who fled Vietnam seeking freedom, Thien Ho is the embodiment of the American Dream. As a lawyer with 23 years of experience, Thien has pursued justice every time he steps into the courtroom. As a deputy district attorney, Thien has prosecuted the most violent and dangerous criminals, including the East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer. As the Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney for Sacramento County, Thien manages and oversees an entire bureau of lawyers who protect the public, collaborate with community partners, and guard the integrity of the criminal justice system.

An experienced prosecutor with a new and balanced approach to protecting our community.

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Thien Ho's
Immigrant
Story

An American Story

About Thien Ho

Thien Ho is an Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney for the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.  A proven prosecutor with 20 years of experience, Thien Ho will ensure our system of justice is fair to all and doesn’t leave women, children, and victims of crime behind.

 

In 1998, Thien began his career as a prosecutor in the Bay Area and in 2004, he was sworn in as a Deputy District Attorney for the people of Sacramento County.


Throughout his career, Thien has successfully prosecuted sexual assault, gang, and homicide cases.

 

Thien successfully prosecuted the East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer, one of the nation’s most prolific and notorious serial killers who committed 13 murders and upwards of 50 sexual assaults in 11 different jurisdictions throughout California.

 

In 2017, Thien was awarded “Prosecutor of the Year” by both the Sacramento District Attorney’s Association and the National Asian Pacific Islander Prosecutors Association (NAPIPA). And, in 2011, he received the Sacramento County Victim Services Award.

 

Assistant Chief Ho currently serves in executive management at the D.A.’s Office and oversees the Justice and Community Relations Bureau.  That bureau includes the Community Prosecution Unit, the Justice, Training and Integrity Unit, as well as community relations and media outreach.

 

As the Assistant Chief in charge of community relations and prosecution, he works every day with County’s diverse community-based organizations as well as the many Property Business Improvement Districts in Sacramento County. 

 

Thien has also been a leader in the Sacramento community against the rise of Asian hate. As Assistant Chief, Thien is the lead prosecutor to engage in outreach regarding hate crimes to vulnerable members of the AAPI community and other groups, including elders and immigrant communities. Additionally, he previously supervised Sacramento’s Gangs and Hate Crime Unit. 

 

For the last 15 years, Thien has been an adjunct professor teaching trial advocacy at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law where he was instrumental in building a national award-winning trial advocacy program.
 

 

An Immigrant Story & The American Dream

By Thien Ho

Before the rise of communism, my father was a teacher in Saigon, Vietnam. After the communists came into power, we saw our friends, families and fellow citizens taken away to “re-education” camps in the jungle. In 1976, approximately a year after the fall of South Vietnam, my family fled in a small fishing boat along with several other families.

As we snuck aboard the boat, my parents hid my infant brother in a cardboard box with holes punched in it for ventilation. To get past the different checkpoints and out to sea, my father stole a uniform from a communist Army officer and stood on the deck of this tiny fishing boat. He painted my toy gun black and put it in the holster.

At one of the checkpoints, the military guard questioned my father and accused him of hiding refugees below deck. My father calmly told the guard that he had just purchased the fishing boat and was taking it out for a cruise with his wife and two sons who were below deck. Still suspicious, the guard demanded to search below. There were 30 men, women and children huddled in the boat’s hull shoulder-to-shoulder in utter fear and silence, because capture meant death. 

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My father drove trucks during the day and went to community college at night. My mother would tuck me into bed and then work the graveyard shift at the local cannery. She returned in the morning smelling like the peaches she had been canning all night long. 

We eventually moved to San Jose, the heart of the Vietnamese Community in Northern California. I am the first person in my family to attend college. I graduated from U.C. Davis in 1995 with a degree in political science and then went to the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in the Oak Park community of Sacramento. I have been serving the people of Sacramento as a prosecutor since 2004. My family’s story is the story of so many immigrants, so many people, so many Americans. It is the quintessential story of the American Dream.

 

My father told the guard, “You can search the boat, and if you find refugees, you can kill everyone onboard, starting with me. But, if you look down there and all you see is my wife and two boys, I’m going to take this gun (pointing to my toy gun) and blow your brains out! How dare you even question me, I outrank you!” After a brief but tense pause, the guard responded, “Nah, we don’t need to look. But let’s come back to the guard shack for a drink before you go.” About thirty minutes later, we were on our way out to sea. 

The families pooled their money to buy a boat and retained the services of a fishing boat captain to navigate across the South China Sea to freedom. But before actually making it out to sea, the captain jumped off the boat and swam ashore, because his family was stuck behind. We faced an agonizing decision - proceed out to sea, with nobody onboard who could competently navigate the open waters, or turn back and risk capture, imprisonment and execution. We decided to take our chances at sea. 

There was the initial excitement of hitting the ocean, the exhilaration of seeing the dolphins swimming alongside our boat. There was also the fear and uncertainty. Hours turned into days, as we lost our way on the ocean, ran out of gasoline, food and water. We even hit a storm. I remember lying exhausted in my mother’s lap unable to move. I was hungry, thirsty, and tired. 

Adrift and lost at sea, we were finally rescued by a French merchant ship that took us to Malaysia, where we spent several months in a refugee camp. Eventually my family was sponsored to Stockton, California by my uncle. We had nothing but the clothes on our backs and each other.