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Suspect in violent, unprovoked attack in the Bronx back in custody after being released without bail

Family of victim in violent, unprovoked attack in the Bronx speaks out
Family of victim in violent, unprovoked attack in the Bronx speaks out 02:39

NEW YORK - The suspect on parole accused of sucker punching a man in the Bronx that left the victim in a coma was arraigned and released on downgraded charges Thursday night

It was a move that confused family members of the victim. 

Friday morning, he was picked up by the state Department of Corrections and taken back into custody after the governor stepped in.

"I took action into my own hands," Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

As CBS2's Alice Gainer reports, the family of Jesus Cortes says the 52-year-old remains in the hospital in a coma and needed brain surgery for his injuries.

"Can't say days, weeks, months from now, but hopefully he makes better progress day by day," the victim's niece told CBS2's Ali Bauman. "It's been really rough. It's been really rough on all of us."

Security video allegedly shows 55-year-old Van Phu Bui put on gloves, then go to another man unprovoked and punch him in the head, causing the victim to fall to the ground. 

It happened last Friday around 10:45 p.m. outside the Fuego Tipico restaurant on East 188th Street near the Fordham Road subway station. 

Cortes suffered a left cheek fracture, skull fracture, abrasions to the knee, a lip laceration and, according to the family, remains in a coma. 

According to the criminal complaint, Van Phu Bui told a parole officer "I'm in trouble. I hit someone and he's in the hospital. I don't know if he's dead. The police are looking for me. I was at the restaurant and I know the police are looking for me." 

He was arrested, and initially facing attempted murder. Based on the evidence they had, the DA downgraded the charges to misdemeanors - assault and harassment - so he was released, without bail.

"I don't know what a judge was thinking in saying, hey, it's OK, you can be let back out into the world and society," the victim's niece said.

Watch Alice Gainer's report

Suspect accused of sucker-punching man in Bronx back in custody 02:49

The Bronx DA"s office says it's still investigating and it's to be determined if elevated charges will brought against the defendant. 

"The office is obtaining additional evidence, reviewing video, speaking to witnesses, analyzing medical records, and providing crime victim services," the Bronx DA's office said in a statement. 

"The charges should've never had been downgraded in the first place where you have a victim in a coma," said criminal defense attorney David Schwartz, a former Brooklyn prosecutor who is not involved in this case. "That is a serious crime. It's not a misdemeanor to sucker punch someone where they fall to the ground, their head hits the ground. Downgrading of charges is completely irresponsible. Coupled with the fact this person has a criminal history." 

Van Phu Bui is on parole after serving time for a felony sex crime. 

So the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision says after a thorough investigation, they directed Van Phu Bui to report to his parole officer. 

"He was taken into custody on a non-technical DOCCS warrant without incident and will be held," DOCCS said in a statement. 

"I directed the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to immediately examine whether or not this parole violation occurred - yes it did, you could see it occurred - this is a person on lifetime parole," Hochul said.

Hochul says she's also asking district attorneys and judges to closely examine laws that were changed in May. Repeat offenders, she says, are now covered under bail laws. 

"They are bail eligible. The judges have wide discretion to set bail or to hold someone," Hochul said. 

A spokesperson for the judge in the case that released him without bail issued the following statement: "Judges follow and interpret the laws as promulgated by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor. Discretion is relative."

The victim's family is grateful the governor got involved but confused why it had to come to this.

"I was expecting a judge to be more reasonable," the victim's niece said.

Van Phu Bui is due back in court Saturday.

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