tv Dateline MSNBC March 2, 2019 2:00am-3:01am PST
>> reporter: she's serving it one night at a time, because the wee small hours of the morning still call to mary bennett, reading the bible and waiting for dawn, while the whole wide world is fast asleep. i'm craig melvin. and this is "dateline." i learned that he was arrested. i was shocked. i was just so confused. i didn't think it was real. >> in the rarefied world of the ivy league, he was the package. star student, gifted athlete, wildly popular. >> he is one of the nicest guys ever.
>> no one could understand how a weekend visit to his parents' house ended in gunfire. >> who's already dead? >> charlie told the officers outside he was going to kill my mom. i had to do it. >> yes. >> a brave son protecting his mom, a harrowing story, but was it true? >> he's seated behind the desk, the father. >> defenseless, really. >> this seems to be an execution. >> was this campus hero actually a cold-hearted killer? >> the defendant sends an email to his fraternity brothers called "showtime." >> one of the things always in question was, was charlie covering up for someone else. >> a trial where nothing went by the book. >> three of the jurors were crying really hard. >> they're turning around in their seats, they're getting, yes, emotional.
they see what's coming. >> he was becoming unhinged. >> welcome to "dateline." char list's dad was killed in the home and police were being told one story and there were also three 911 calls. did one of them hold the clue that would unlock what really happened on that wintry night? here's dennis murphy with "house of secrets." >> cayuga. that's cayuga lake in ithaca, new york. it's where you'll find one of the most prestigious universities in the nation. cornell, the ivy league.
more than 13,000 undergrads here working towards degrees will with good fortune take their places in medicine, the law, the arts. there's no doubt a cornell education can be a gold-plated entrance ticket to adult life. and only the best need apply, students like charlie tan. he was so kind, his classmate featured him in a video, random acts of kindness. giving gifts to complete strangers. >> not just a great kid but the greatest of great kids. >> charlie was the son of chinese immigrants who became "mr. everything." scholar, class president, the guy with the cool friends, hannah valentine opened up her parents' summerhouse to charlie and his other teenaged pals. >> he was always happy and energetic. >> the guy that tells jokes? >> everybody knows him. he'll like walk in. the room lights up, he starts telling a funny story.
>> so you'd think charlie tan was another ivy league overachiever poised for takeoff and great things to come, but that's not his story. this is about the charlie tan, keeper of secrets, and quite possibly something much worse. but before all that, charlie was as deserving a kid as ever got an ivy league acceptance letter. >> he was really excited. when he got admitted, really awesome. >> ivy league. >> yeah, he was super excited, super happy. >> so in the fall of 2013 charlie tan left his parents' home near rochester, new york, and drove the few hours to cornell. his exciting new chapter in a life already filled with early achievements. he pledged a frat. he wasn't big enough for the varsity football team, so at 165 pounds he was directed toward what they call a sprint football team. >> i met charlie the first day, freshman year, actually. i had just gotten my locker and charlie was one of the first people i met. >> quarterback rob pinola.
>> he was one of the most encouraging people on the team. he was a leader on the team, both by example and his words. >> rob and charlie became not just teammates but great friends. >> he's one of the most generous and selfless people i've ever met. >> he impressed his teammates and coach. >> good football player, always quiet, always got a smile, never late, good worker, good kid, solid. >> go back to the handsome house in the rochester suburbs where charlie grew up in his teenage years. it's a place called pittsford, new york. and newspaper reporter john hand knows it well. >> it's a very nice community, very picturesque community. >> thick lawns, nice cars in the garage? >> lots of executives from kodak and xerox and lawyers. >> charlie was the younger of two boys. his parents, born in china, lived in canada before moving to upstate new york. his dad ran a tech business that
thrived. the home radiated upper middle class comfort. his friend anna had been there on occasion. >> i went over to his house. i didn't know his parents very well. i talked to his mom a couple times, but i didn't really have much conversation with them when we were there. >> little was known about his parents, and charlie didn't offer any details if someone asked. if he had secrets, sorrows, they weren't for the outside world to know about. >> he's very good at like keeping his emotions in. >> i have no idea what the home situation is like. i didn't know before, and i don't know now. >> other than a few 911 dispatchers, and a few town officers, the wider community certainly knew nothing about the whispers of domestic violence on coachside lane. >> it's a tough part of his life. >> the record is still sealed, but it's safe to say the tan house was known to authorities. go back to cornell. it's winter of 2015 and charlie
is now a sophomore. on a chilly thursday morning he stopped in unexpectedly to visit his football coach. there is a softer side to this coach than drills and xs and os, and his kids know he'll always be there for them. >> our rule is if you have a problem come in and we'll close the door. if you need somebody to talk to, we're here. >> now it was charlie who needed a shoulder or something. >> i said how are you doing. he said good, but he said, i can't make weightlifting on friday. and i said what's problem? he said i got to go home. >> clearly something was eating at the student. >> i asked if there was anything he wanted to talk about. he declined. he just said he had to get home. >> it wasn't spring break. classes were in session but charlie got in his car and started the drive to pittsford, 100 miles away. coach didn't know it, but charlie tan's life as a student at cornell would soon be over. >> very squared away, got his act together. knows what he's doing.
>> only charlie tan wasn't at all okay. it snowed that night, a muffling blanket, covering the home where something awful was about to happen. >> coming up, why did charlie need to rush home? the first clue coming from a friend's mom who called 911. >> he didn't give us a lot of details. i'm just worried that he might do something.
>> when charlie tan made the 100 mile trip his football coach knew he had been upset. >> i asked him to call me when he got home just so i knew he was okay. charlie spent time at an old friend's pal where he seemed deeply sad, not the charlie he'd known since childhood. the friend and his mother were so concerned they called 911. >> he didn't give us a lot of details. i'm just worried that he might do something at his house. i just can't take a chance. >> all right. i'm going to have them go to that house and check on him. >> and a deputy did just that. detective of the monroe county sheriff's office. >> charlie said he was upset
over some things. he'd come home to talk to people and he was working out some things and he'd be okay. >> it was now thursday night almost the weekend. charlie didn't go back to school friday morning and come monday, he wasn't at practice. >> there wasn't much i could do anyway other than text him and he didn't respond. >> and then it was monday night. something awful. >> 911. what is the nature of your emergency? >> yes, i -- >> the caller so distraught confused the dispatcher. >> ma'am, i can't understand anything you're saying. does anyone need an ambulance? >> it was jean tan, charlie's mother. >> did you say you heard a shot? >> yes. >> does someone in the house have a gun? >> now the garbled story is coming into focus. shots fired, the husband, the man of the house is shot dead. >> who's already dead?
>> my husband. >> your who? >> my husband. >> are you in a safe spot? >> yes, i am. >> we need you to wait outside of the house for the police officer's safety. >> detective peglow was soon on the way to coachside lane. he still had a garbled account from the 911 call. who had shot whom? >> he was trying to protect me. >> your son was trying to protect you? >> yes. >> it looked like what we would call domestic murder. something had just occurred. >> on arrival, the first deputies on the scene saw a young man who would turn out to be 19 year old charlie tan standing in the driveway with his mother. >> they were outside the house. let those people come out. they asked, you know, who else was in the house. >> in the next moments, the deputies heard the son tell a story that sounded like self-defense. he had to shoot, he said, to save his mother. he'd used a shotgun.
>> charlie said, my dad's in there. he's dead. i had to do it. he was going to hurt my mom. >> the father is shot because the boy feels his mother's in jeopardy. >> yes. >> it was getting late on a frigid february night. the deputies put the son and mother in a patrol car. >> they asked him where the shotgun was. there was some mention of it being in the garage. >> reporter: after securing the weapon, they made their way to the second floor. in the home office they found the victim. >> the father is behind the desk? >> spent shotgun shells are right there in that doorway area. >> the detective would quickly learn more about jim tan, father, husband and businessman. >> he owned his own company. they had lived in canada and moved to the united states some years earlier. >> successful executive. >> by all accounts, yes. >> but was the successful businessman also an abusive husband? the detective looked around the household as crime scene techs processed the shotgun killing
upstairs. they came upon an appointment card for jean tan to appear at domestic violence court. so the working theory, justifiable homicide, made some sense. but detective peglow was no rookie. his investigation into charlie tan and what happened inside that home was just getting started. >> one of the investigators found what appeared to be newly-taken passport photos, along with a list of prominent local defense attorneys. >> that's interesting. >> yes, sir. >> the story is, i had to do it, but you're not taking that at face value. >> correct. >> coming up, a discovery on jim tan's computer triggers suspicion about his time of death. >> how many days prior is the last e-mail check? >> four. that was really a big thing for me. >> when "dateline extra" continues. feed them... with centrum® micronutrients. restoring your awesome... daily.
>> deputies canvassed the neighborhood but no one heard the shot. he had to do it, he said, to protect his mom. >> self-defense is something we'll listen to if that's what happened. then the law will bear that out so we wanted to speak to him to determine that. >> that same night charlie and his mother were taken down to the station to tell their
stories. >> were you able to get a statement? >> his lawyers were on scene after me. >> the mother and the son, the detectives were on their own. it turns out a very large piece of evidence was waiting to be found right there in their very office. a report from the house on coach side lane. >> just two weeks before the shooting, police records show the wife placed another 911 call. >> yes, my name is jean tan, and my husband just beat me up. i need your protections. >> are you injured? >> yes, he choke me, and i'm so scared. please. please help. oh, he's coming. no. please come. >> the dispatcher heard what sounded like an ongoing fight between husband and wife. >> hello. sorry. >> no. >> no, no. >> sorry about that.
>> help me, help me! >> no, no. >> a deputy was sent to the house and noticed jean tan, the wife, was clearly rattled. reporter john hand. >> they found that jean was still upset. she had some red marks on her neck, but there wasn't enough there to charge jim tan with a crime. >> so incident over? >> that night. >> he tried to kill me, but nothing results in charges or makes it into the paperwork. >> right. >> so a history of abuse, it appeared. if that were the case, charlie had told no one in his circle at cornell university. the coach hadn't heard from charlie in days, and now his phone rang. >> campus police called me up and asked me to come to his fraternity house, which i did. they wanted me to know that
charlie's father had been killed. it was rugged. we got a bunch of players in the fraternity. and everybody was obviously very upset. >> charlie tan admitting that he'd shot his father to death. >> i think it was probably disbelief more than -- and shock that this occurred. >> we had a team meeting about it, but immediately after, there was so much support for him. and everyone was amazed by the support. >> from the get-go, there was no debate. the entire frat and team had charlie's back. >> not just the football team, but everybody on cornell campus that he knew well was showing support for him. everyone was always trying to help him and ask if there's anything we could do for him. >> to his friends at home, there was shock there of course too. and yet the heartbreaking story of charlie tan protecting his mom by any means necessary made some kind of weird sense. he was, after all, the kid who
was always trying hard to help. people talk about him being selfless. >> yeah. >> lives to help other people. >> yeah. he would do anything for people. >> close friend, anna, had a hard time wrapping her head around charlie doing anything violent. the charlie she knew was a thoughtful kid who did things no ordinary teenager did. >> my mom went through the cancer, and he was always there. he brought her like gifts and stuff. so he was always there supporting anybody. >> so anna would be there, too, supporting charlie through this difficult time. a friend to the end. neither she nor anyone else could have guessed where the investigation was heading next. that the detective who'd examined the scene that night was wondering if there was more to the story. it was all obvious right away that something was off with the working theory of the crime. a heat of passion, self-defense homicide. >> we were there hours, obviously searching every bit. one of the things that was noticed by one of the investigators is just, you know, the dried blood that was all
over. >> dried blood. the timeline and the whole story, in fact, demanded a closer look. >> it's certainly one of the things that starts to get your attention. hang on, there might be more. let's make is sure we're on the right path here. >> and there were other observations that set their timeline back. on jim tan's desk computer where he had apparently been working when he was killed, there were unopened e-mails going back before the weekend. >> jim is trading e-mails with an employee. and at some point after that, he clearly stops using his computer. he is no longer sending. he's no longer opening. >> and as detectives poked around that office monday night -- >> so how many days prior is the last e-mail check? >> four. four days. that was really a big thing for me. this is a guy who ran his own company with employees and activity. >> going back four days. that put the shooting back to that thursday night charlie came home from cornell. and a four-day-old crime scene would also explain what had been
plainly obvious to the seasoned detectives' noses. >> the odor of decomposition was very strong. >> the detective now believed that the emotional 911 call was bogus. now you're saying it's days earlier. what's going on here, right? >> correct. that first inference from the 911 call and what charlie had said in the driveway to the deputies seemed to be in confrontation with what we were starting to see inside. >> down at the sheriff's office, jean tan, the mother, was released from custody, but not charlie. the 19-year-old ivy leaguer was charged with second degree murder. >> what did you think, anna? >> i was shocked. i was just so confused about it, i didn't think it was real. i didn't think it was possible. >> charlie tan, the nice boy, the great kid, if convicted, was facing 25 years to life in
prison. >> coming up, store video shows the gun that killed charlie's father being purchased. but it's not charlie buying it. >> new name all together here. >> correct. >> and then the strange thing charlie did just before his mom placed the 911 call. >> the defendant sends an e-mail to his fraternity brothers called "showtime." >> when "dateline extra" continues. ! huh...anybody? julie! hey...guess what day it is? ah come on, i know you can hear me. mike mike mike mike mike... what day is it mike? ha ha ha ha! leslie, guess what today is? it's hump day. whoot whoot! ronny, how happy are folks who save hundred of dollars switching to geico? i'd say happier than a camel on wednesday. hump day!!! get happy. get geico. fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more. are confusing quilted northern are confusing quilted northernf. for a bouncy castle. they're both durable, flexible and nice to have at parties.
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now back to "dateline." welcome back, i'm craig melvin. charlie tan told police he shot his father to save his mother. but investigators were finding flaws in that story. the ivy league student had been arrested and was facing second degree murder charges. was this an intentional killing or justifiable homicide? here again is dennis murphy with "house of secrets." >> anna valentine was in a state of disbelief when she learned that her close friend charlie tan had been arrested. >> did you have a chance to talk to charlie himself in that period? >> he called me on the phone a couple times from jail. >> anna didn't sit around. she was going to do whatever she could to defend her friend, because she knew there was no way charlie did anything wrong. >> you did something remarkable. you sort of pulled together a whole community behind charlie. >> yeah. >> anna started a defense fund support page for charlie. >> and it just like spread
crazy. i had no clue what was going to happen. >> you threw out there on the net. >> i put out the page and told my friends i did it. people i hadn't even heard of were supporting him. people from the community, everyone was doing it. >> how much money did you raise? >> around $50,000, yeah. >> why did people come out of the wood work to support charlie? >> he has been one of the nicest guys ever, and everybody knew that and they wanted to do anything they could to give back to him. charlie would give everything to other people. if somebody needed anything, he would be the one to give it to them. >> reporter john hand was working on one of the biggest stories they had seen in years. so now it's an investigation for you, news story. great ivy league kid blows away his father in this nice neighborhood. what's going on in terms of response to this event? >> we were astonished. it's not very often you have a murder suspect who a bunch of people from pittsford are rallying around. >> the case had captured the hearts and minds of a community that couldn't imagine this
exceptional young man in prison. these are lawyers and surgeons and big powerful people in new york state who are behind this kid. >> oh, yeah. >> we wish that hadn't happened but the kid deserves a break. >> the community felt that very strongly. >> so when the trial began less than a year after the shooting, the sworn representative of the people with a murder case to prove found herself in an odd spot. >> the biggest problem was the defendant himself, because he did appear to be, you know, an upstanding, nice young man. >> monroe county district attorney sandra dorley. >> from the very beginning, people were disappointed that an indictment was filed against charlie tan and that we're taking this to court. but, you know what? we have to prosecute people who violate the laws of our state. >> assistant d.a. prosecuted the case in court. he told the jury that, yes, charlie tan was a high achiever, a bright young man who always
went the extra mile for his friends. >> and perhaps he wanted to succeed as charlie tan and solve all the problems that were occurring on coachside lane. >> helping his mother. >> helping his mother. >> by killing his father. that was the solution. >> that was our theory, yes. the gun was found at the murder scene. his fingerprints are on the ammo. a mother saying my son did it and charlie saying he had to do it. >> but did he have to do it? that was the key question. and the prosecution said no. this was no justifiable homicide. this was an execution. in fact, the weapon, a .12 gauge remington shotgun, had been purchased just for the killing. when they traced it they discovered it had just been bought from a walmart near cornell.
>> so we sent investigators down there, and as they began to look into that, they found that the gun had been purchased by a young man named whitney knickerbocker. >> newly purchased. >> newly purchased. >> by a new name all together here. >> correct. >> the purchase had taken place february 2015, the same day charlie left cornell. the store had surveillance video of charlie's friend and fellow fraternity brother buying the shotgun, video that was shown to the jury. the frat brother was never accused of having anything to do with the killing. charlie had apparently convinced him to help buy a gun. >> friends say that whitney was told by charlie that he was going to go on a hunting trip so he asked whitney to help him. >> of course the prosecution says there was no hunting trip, charlie was planning a murder. in fact, before he got the friend to buy the weapon, surveillance footage showed just how intent he was on getting one. hours earlier, there was charlie. >> charlie's on video going into the walmart, attempting to purchase the shotgun. he is unable to.
>> why is he turned down? why can't he buy the shotgun? >> he's a canadian citizen. >> which would require a waiting period, time he didn't have. >> so he gets the friend to come in and make the purchase. >> that was our theory, yes. >> it's hard to put together a heat of passion scenario, mom's in jeopardy, if you purchase the weapon in advance. >> correct. >> and the prosecutor told the jury there was no evidence of a fight that evening. >> if you look at the exact moment of the killing, jim tan is just sitting at his desk. >> sitting at his desk answering e-mails. >> answering e-mails, working to, you know, provide a living and a pretty good living for his family. >> in fact, the medical examiner testified that as jim tan sat behind his desk in his home office, he was shot three times about the chest and face. the last shot the coup de grace. >> medical examiners still believe jim tan was alive when that was inflicted right to his face.
>> the prosecutors believe it was thursday night, that same night, the same night that one of charlie's friends sent a deputy to the tan home to check on charlie's welfare. it's possible that when the boy answered the door his dad was already dead inside. but no one from the tan home called 911, rather, charlie and his mom grabbed their passports and fled the country. >> jean tan and charlie tan left the country, went to canada and came back on that monday before the 911 call was placed. >> so why come back and tell a lie? the prosecution didn't know. a guess, perhaps someone had to run jim tan's business. and this last tidbit, before that four days late 911 call, charlie took the time to first send an e-mail warning to his fraternity brothers. they would soon hear things in the news. >> he sends an e-mail called "showtime". >> you're going to be hearing from law enforcement.
>> yes, yes, you will be surprised. showtime. >> no, the jurors don't buy the self-defense. this was no crime of passion. it was a planned murder. so this is an assassination. >> yes. >> he walks in and blows dad away. >> exactly. >> the prosecution rested. the defense team was up next, and they were about to lay out a head-spinning theory of the crime from seemingly another universe no one saw coming. coming up, the defense drops a bombshell. >> one of the things that was always a question of ours was, was charlie covering up for someone else? >> when "dateline" continues. at! [conference phone] has joined the call. hey baloney here. i thought this was a no by-products call? land o' frost premium. a slice above. ♪ shorten your cold by almost half this was a no by-products call? with cold-eeze® lozenges. cold-eeze® can shorten your cold by 42%.
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it was an upside down world in the courthouse where you'd suspect a lot of supporters for the victim. there was none. >> the victim's assistance from the district attorney's office, i sat with her the whole trial because she had nothing to do. >> people that normally wouldn't advocate homicide, who say if he did it then he did it and his father deserved it. he had all but a cheering section with pom poms. >> i think having all the support made him feel so much better, so much stronger. i think he knew we were all there for him no matter what. >> her friend ana was on the witness list.
>> i went as much as i could between classes. >> how did he seem to you? >> some days were harder than others. some days he seemed good. >> charlie would sit in court while they would build a case that seemed to support domestic violence, playing the tape of jean tan calling the cops two weeks before the shooting. >> my husband just beat me up. i need your protections. >> are you injured? >> yes, he choke me, and i'm so scared. >> defense attorney james nobles thought the 911 recording spoke volumes about that household. >> it was almost as if we were put in the hell that charlie lived in for a brief moment. and the hell that jean lived in for a brief moment. >> and they kept piling on. jim tan continued the defense wasn't just a bully at home. his employees testified about the abuse they, too, encountered in the workplace. >> every other person who worked with jim tan said he was miserable, behaved like a child, he would bully people, was nasty at work.
>> so a son defending his abused mother was a defense no-brainer strategy that seemed to require little assembly. the other defense lawyer, brian decarlos. >> i think most people that looked at this case said the only defense is self-defense or some hybrid of, you know, a battered child syndrome. >> but as the trial progressed, that wasn't the attack charlie's defense team planned. >> our strategy was to keep our strategic defense in our back pocket, hidden from the prosecution as long as we possibly could. >> so what was the secret defense? they were going to agree with the prosecution on one point, that when jean called 911 to report her husband dead, the murder was days old. >> that call is 100% fake, there's no question about it. >> not only was the mom lying to 911 about when the murder
occurred, no, argued the defense, she was lying about something much bigger, who the true killer was. the defense attorney saved his surprise for closing arguments. >> it was an unusual moment, because certainly, i knew there were many friends and supporters of jean tan in the courtroom, and i was going to basically suggest to these jurors that she had pulled the trigger. >> jean tan, the mom, the wife, the true killer. the defense said the shotgun was in her hand. she pulled the trigger. she solved her own problem, not her son. that was the story the defense saved for the 11th hour. >> not an easy thing to do in a packed courtroom. >> according to the defense, it was jean tan who had the motive, the motive to get rid of her bully husband, get the house, the business, the money. >> frankly, it put motive in jean tan's category more so than charlie. >> and what little forensic evidence was at the scene was according to the defense inconclusive. >> there was a fingerprint on one of the shell casings and the
box of ammunition. at one point in time, charlie could have loaded the gun, but it doesn't make him pulling the trigger. >> as the defense saw, the mom did it theory even explained that odd e-mail that charlie sent to his frat brothers, it implied that the story to come might not be the real one. >> the real truth will come out one day, and you'll know what happened. one of the concerns was charlie covering up for someone else. >> the prosecutor seemed caught off guard when he raised to present his closing argument. >> he addressed charlie directly. he said something to the effect of, charlie, your lawyer is calling your mother a killer. and he picked up the shotgun. and he approached the jury very, very closely with it. and he was trying to make a point, a very passionate point. >> brandishing the murder weapon
as a prop did not sit well with the judge. >> we knew what he had done, exactly what we wanted to do. we had totally taken him by surprise. >> after a week of testimony, the case went to the jury. out in the hallway, tv cameras dogged charlie's every move. he'd been out on bond the entire time. >> he knows his life is hanging in the balance. that's a tough thing for anybody to go through. >> but he had the unwavering support of team charlie. they all waited with charlie at deliberations began and spilled over into a second day and then another. >> every day we'd show up to court being, like, oh, is it going to happen today. everybody was super nervous. like on the edge of their seats the whole time. and charlie was, i was. >> because if it goes in an adverse way for you and charlie, he's going to be led off and you wouldn't see him for a long long time. >> yeah, it was hard to imagine that.
>> jennifer is a juror sitting on the case. >> i'm not sure anybody felt bad for jim tan, but everybody did recognize that the way he died was still a crime. >> both the prosecution and defense had agreed that charlie's fingerprints were on the ammo. >> but did he actually pull the trigger? or did he load the gun and give it to his mom and say here you go. that was the biggest point of contention. >> she was ready to vote guilty. the panel of 12 was far from unanimous. more days passed. >> eight people guilty. four people not guilty. >> a stalemate, an impasse seemed to be at hand. but still they talked. >> three of the jurors were crying really hard because they didn't want to think that he was guilty, but they couldn't ignore it at that point. >> the local media asked prosecutor gargen for updates. >> i don't have experience with a jury out this long. nor do my peers. >> on day eight, after 50 hours of deliberations, the jury told the judge they were hopelessly deadlocked.
the judge declared a mistrial. >> that didn't mean it was over for charlie by any stretch. >> no, it just meant there was a long road ahead. >> a long road with another trial, another set of court dates, another jury to go through the same set of facts, unless that wasn't what was going to happen at all. coming up, an entire proceedings begin to spin out of control. >> he was becoming unhinged. un. care for the clothes you love with woolite detergent. the new concentrated formula... ...gives you 30% more loads and gently cleans. no stretching no shrinking no fading woolite. cares as much as it cleans.
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>> welcome back. more than might months after jim tan was shot to death inside his home, the trial for his son charlie was met with a hung jury. there was another stunner in store. here with the conclusion with "house of secrets" is daniel murphy. >> the judge declares a mistrial. >> the charlie tan murder trial was big news in rochester. >> they could not come to a consensus. everyone was talking to the media, including the judge, who was running for state supreme court, and spoke to our affiliate, whectv. would you be presiding as judge again? >> i believe i would because the case has been assigned to me. that's the normal protocol. >> the lawyers on both sides shared thoughts about doing it all over again. >> it's a murder charge, not a petty larceny charge. with a hung jury where you walk away from it.
we understand that the d.a.'s office is not going to walk away from a homicide. >> how will it look differently? >> better for me. that's how it will look differently. >> unfortunately for charlie's attorneys, they'd already played their surprise defense, mom really did it. there would be no shock value in a second trial. >> frankly, we've got to face this like a brand-new case starting today. in november of 2015, weeks after the trial ended, both sides were back in the same court, before the same judge, who two days earlier had won the state supreme court seat. it was a routine hearing to talk retrial logistics. >> we were figuring a january trial date. >> the reporter, john hand, who had been there for the entire trial was in attendance, too. >> there were a number of charlie's friends there. myself and roughly four or five other reporters who had covered the trial. the gang's all here. and the judge said we have to address the motion for dismissal by the defense, it's still pending.
>> that's a common motion made by most defense attorneys when they ask a judge to throw out a case, especially due to a lack of evidence. >> you always do it. it's, frankly, malpractice not to. >> everyone thought this would be an order of business, quickly dispatched. the judge would move on to setting a new trial date. >> then he talks about the lack of evidence regarding the possession of the gun, lack of evidence that the fingerprints were found on the shells upstairs, but that didn't indicate that he'd ever shot it. i looked at another reporter who i know and i said what's going on here? >> charlie's lawyers had a glimmer about where this was going. >> i leaned into charlie's ear, and i told him something good's about to happen. >> the assembled press couldn't believe where the judge was heading. >> you're holding your breath, and you're going, he's about to dismiss this case, the biggest case we've had in years and years and years, a case that jurors deliberated on for 50 hours. >> the assistant prosecutor saw the train wreck ahead and wasn't
at all pleased. he grabbed the mic. >> can i speak? and the judge very quickly said, no, you may not. bill gargen continued to speak. and the judge said i'll put you in handcuffs. >> the judge told that to the district attorney. >> never seen that before. behind bill gargen, the prosecutor, not the defendant. >> he was interrupting. he was becoming unhinged. >> after the dramatics with the prosecutor the judge did finish his thought. he threw out the entire case against charlie tan, a judicial ruling that meant that the case couldn't be reprosecuted or retried. >> it was a big win for charlie tan. he was ecstatic. >> outside the courtroom, the media was waiting for charlie, the former defendant who hadn't yet spoken to reporters. >> now you'll talk to us, right? >> back up, back up, please, please. >> and before we got a chance to talk to him, his defense lawyer ushered him out down the hallway. >> what did you think? did you take it all in? i'm not sure he took it all in.
>> i'm not sure i took it all in at first. >> that this is over. >> it was super exciting. everyone was so happy. everyone was in tears. >> not quite everyone. assistant d.a. bill gargen was fuming. >> you were willing to get arrested over this. >> absolutely. i was more than willing to have handcuffs placed on me to argue my point. i didn't cross any lines. >> what recourse do you have? >> there's no appeal. that i know of. >> so charlie tan is free. >> that's it. there is no appeal as of from this trial order of dismissal, because there has not been a verdict by the jury. >> the event didn't happen. >> correct. >> so in the people versus charlie tan, you had to cynically wonder whether the defendant's vocal supporters carried the day from outside the courtroom. >> you're talk about the division in the community. some think the golden ivy league boy was able to kill his father and get away with it.
strange story, the whole thing. >> yeah. >> charlie's mother, according to the district attorney, will not be prosecuted. because there's no evidence to show she was responsible for the murder. >> could it have been the mother? >> i look at a .12-gauge gun. she was a small woman. i don't know if she was capable of even being able to discharge that kind of weapon. >> so the only two people who know what happened in that house, charlie and his mother, have stayed mum. neither was ever interviewed by police. >> people will say this is a case he killed his father and got off. others will say no, they can't prove it. you have people who say i don't care what happened, i'm not sending this 19-year-old to prison. >> the mom and brother are running the company jim tan started. as for charlie, is he okay? >> he's very positive. >> a great kid, a very popular kid who's done well and succeeded in all things he's been in. and it's time to move on. we welcome him back with open arms. >> but that didn't happen.
the university let charlie know if he attempted to return to cornell, it was prepared to discipline him for violating the school's code of conduct. so charlie withdrew, and with that action lost the cornell version of the gold-plated ticket entrance to adult life. the authorities are weren't done with charlie. he had been back to live in canada. when he tried to cross the border to attend a wedding he was arrested then indicted and charged with a firearm. the allege purchase happened four days before his father's shooting. in june 2018, charlie pleaded guilty to each of the three charges. he was sentenced to 20 years.
in his young life he pleased everybody. his coaches, his teachers, his devoted friends outwardly happy, inwardly who really knew? that's all for this edition of "dateline". i'm craig melvin. thanks for watching. ching. good morning. i'm philip mena, msnbc world headquarters in new york. it is 6:00 in the east, 3:00 out west and here's what's happening. on the defense, the white house under fire over jared kushner's security clearance. democrats threatening to take action if they don't get answers. >> he has the absolute authority to do that and he trusts jared as members of his senior team. >> if there's somebody out there that has leverage over him, and that could be a very, very seriously compromising thing. >> ripple effects of michael cohen's testimony. what this could meanor