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Tribesman Sentenced to Learn English, American Culture

June 30, 1988

CHICAGO (AP) _ Two Laotian tribesmen who became U.S. citizens were sentenced by a judge to learn English and study American heritage and culture following their convictions on battery charges.

″I recognize that they came from a different society and a different culture, and one that unfortunately experienced violence on a daily basis,″ Cook County Circuit Judge Michael Jordan said during sentencing Tuesday.

Ching Xiong, 71, who had been mayor of a Laotian village, and his son, Bravo Xiong, 38, were accused of beating a man in a disagreement on an expressway ramp.

The Xiongs had wanted the judge to allow a tribal test of truth, in which both parties tell their side of the story and then drink water containing rooster blood.

In the March 1987 incident, the Xiongs stopped their car on a ramp after Michael Speropulous, 23, of Chicago, honked his car’s horn at them several times because their car cut his off, authorities said.

Prosecutors say the elder Xiong, who was convicted of battery, held Speropulous while the younger Xiong, who was convicted of aggravated battery, hit Speropulous on the head with a metal bar.

The Xiongs claimed they acted in self-defense, but five witnesses backed up Speropulous.

A Northwestern University professor who testified on the Xiongs’ behalf called the sentence ″the ultimate outrage.″

″They came to this country with no resources, stripped of their land and money,″ said Dwight Conquergood. ″They have suffered enough.″

The Xiongs, who are Hmong tribesmen, were wounded in the Vietnam War, fighting on the side of the United States. They left Laos in 1975, and lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for five years before moving to Chicago.

Bravo Xiong said at trial that the rooster blood test works because it is believed that a person who drinks the blood after telling a lie soon will die. Usually in Hmong standoffs, the liar does not drink the water, he said.

Assistant State’s Attorney Cathy Crowley said the younger Xiong should have been sentenced to jail.

″You don’t take a tire iron or a locking device to someone’s cranium because you don’t appreciate them honking their horn,″ she said.

In addition to the cultural education, Jordan sentenced the father to a year’s court supervision and sentenced the son to two weekends in jail and 600 hours of community service and placed him on 30 months’ probation.

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