HOUSTON (CN) - Three weeks before Election Day, a Republican candidate for the Texas House seeks an injunction against a magazine he claims is defaming him as a "Vietnamese Communist spy."
Aloysius "Al" Hoang, an attorney, sued the Vietnamese weekly magazine Thoi Bao Houston and its editor, Thinh Dat Nguyen, on Oct. 13, in Harris County Court.
Hoang is running for House District 149, a southwest Harris County district that is the most diverse in Texas and includes a Vietnamese community that amounts to around 20 percent of its residents.
Hoang, 38, is a former Houston City Council member who says in his pro se lawsuit that he lost that seat in 2013 because of defamatory articles Nguyen published in Thoi Bao Houston.
The magazine prints editions around the world.
Being accused of Communist sympathies is a serious accusation among the United States' roughly 1.6 million Vietnamese-Americans. Legal battles flare up regularly over use of the word in small Vietnamese-language publications.
Hoang claims in his lawsuit that after he was elected to the City Council in 2010, Nguyen invited him to his house for dinner.
During the meal, Hoang disclosed that Houston's airport system director, Mario Diaz, had invited him on a trip to Vietnam, Hoang says in the lawsuit.
The complaint states: "Suddenly defendant Thinh Dat Nguyen ordered Al Hoang: 'I order you not to go to Vietnam. If you go, I will mobilize Thoi Bao to destroy you, to take your council seat away. This is my order.'
"Al Hoang replied: I am a councilman. I do things in accordance to my conscience, you cannot order me like that.' I Hoang left the house."
Hoang told Courthouse News that Nguyen had no reason to order him to stay away from Vietnam -Nguyen was simply trying to bully him.
"When I was elected as a City Council member he wanted people to see that I as a City Council member was under him. He dictated to me that I have to listen. ... He just wants to show he has authority over me. That's what it is," Hoang said.
Hoang says Thoi Bao's coverage took a defamatory turn after the dinner.
"After this event, almost every issue, Thinh Dat Nguyen writes on Thoi Bao Houston libeling Al Hoang as a Vietnamese Communist, an agent of Vietnamese Communist, or a spy of the Vietnamese Communist," the complaint states. "After the articles were printed on Thoi Bao, the articles then disseminated to Vietnamese e-forums and Internet for millions of readers to view."
In the lawsuit, Hoang connects the defamation to three protests that sprang up in front of his house, and a "cocktail bomb death threat" left near his front door.
He claims he found the note one morning in late 2012 as he left to take his children to school.
"My kids were so scared. There was a note exactly like what Mr. Thinh Nguyen always dictates to me: 'Do not go to Vietnam. If you go to Vietnam we kill you.' The case investigation is pending," Hoang said in an interview.
Hoang's opponent in the upcoming election is Hubert Vo, a Democrat, vying to become District 149's representative for a sixth straight term.
Vo owns the shopping center that houses Thoi Bao Houston's office, according to the lawsuit.
"Whether Hubert Vo or his campaign paid Thoi Bao to have articles libeling plaintiff is a question to be answered during discovery," the complaint states.
Vo is not a party to the lawsuit.
Hoang said the false statements are influencing an election the Houston Chronicle calls "another of the rare competitive races."
"If the TRO is issued it will help me a lot," Hoang said. "I don't want people to be confused. I have a list of about 10 seniors who read his magazine all the time. They believe in him. I have my friends and also my family members and I call them and they say, 'We read that magazine and we believe in him.'
"That's a problem. I don't know how many [voters read the magazine]. One hundred or two hundred? But every vote counts now. "
Hoang wants the defendants restrained from calling him a Communist, and punitive damages for libel and hate crime. He represents himself through his Houston law office, Hoang & Associates.
Vo's campaign manager, Karen Loper, said he was in a conference Thursday morning and is likely unaware of Hoang's lawsuit.
She said the Bellaire Boulevard address listed in the complaint as Vo's building, where he rents space to Thoi Bao Houston, does not actually belong to Vo.
"That's not Hubert Vo's property. He has a shopping center on Bellaire, but that's not it," Loper said.
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