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B.C. court sentences YouTuber to 18 months probation for contempt in ongoing defamation case

Undated photo of a person opening the YouTube app (Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels) Undated photo of a person opening the YouTube app (Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels)
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A B.C. YouTuber who posted dozens of allegedly defamatory videos in violation of a court order has been sentenced to 18 months probation.

Si Phung Dong, also known as Phil Dong, is being sued for defamation by Vuong Pham and his company I Buy Beauty LLC for an alleged "campaign of online harassment" waged on YouTube, according to a recently published court decision.

Pham claims that Dong published 111 videos over a four-month period that said or implied that Pham, his company and his associates are "communists, money launderers, scammers, fraudsters, and thieves," the decision says. The judge describes Dong as a "professional YouTuber" who has tens of thousands of followers and notes that some of his videos have amassed more than 100,000 views.

While the allegations of defamation have not been tested or proven in court, a judge did grant an injunction that prohibited Dong from continuing to post videos and ordering him to take down the allegedly defamatory content.

The order was issued in June of 2022, but Dong continued to post to his multiple YouTube channels.

"The offending videos expressly refer to the plaintiff Mr. Pham by name, in conjunction with terms and phrases such as 'money laundering,' 'deceitful,' 'bogus,' and 'fraud' or 'fraudulent scheme.' Some of the offending videos referred to Mr. Pham as the 'king of fraud,'" Justice Paul Riley wrote in his sentencing decision.

Riley noted that 25 videos posted between June and August, when Pham started contempt proceedings, had violated the order. In addition, Dong posted an additional 61 videos referring to Pham and his company in the two weeks after the contempt application was filed.

"Mr. Dong’s conduct appears to have continued unabated until he was physically arrested," the judge said.

In October of 2022, the decision says, Dong "purged his contempt" by taking down the allegedly defamatory videos and not putting up any new ones.

"Of course, this only occurred after months of wilfully blind disregard for the terms of the injunction order, and after he was arrested and held in custody for two days," the judge said.

Nevertheless, the fact that Dong did eventually comply with the order was considered a mitigating factor in the sentencing decision.

"The act of purging one’s contempt does not make the underlying conduct any less contemptuous, but it is indicative of a subsequent change in attitude or position, which is relevant at sentencing, as evidence of the contemnor’s remorse and willingness to bring him or herself into compliance with the law," Riley said.

The judge also outlined a number of consequences Dong has faced as a result of his contempt, including the arrest, which happened in front of his wife, and a search of his home by "a substantial number of uniformed police officers" that "was a source of embarrassment for Mr. Dong and his family."

There have also been financial consequences, the judge noted, saying the legal fees associated with the contempt proceedings cost Dong an estimated $60,000 and that Dong will be responsible for an additional $60,000 in special costs he has been ordered to pay to Pham.

"I am satisfied that by virtue of all of the consequences Mr. Dong has already faced as a result of his actions, he has personally learned the lesson that court orders must be complied with and are not to be ignored," Riley wrote.

"I am satisfied that others who are facing injunction orders in similar circumstances would also take the message, based on Mr. Dong’s experience in this matter, that court orders must be respected," the judge continued.

The terms of Dong's 18 months of probation include continued compliance with the court injunction, a curfew for two months, an order not to leave the province for 60 days, and a weapons prohibition.

"If you violate the terms of the probation order, then you could be brought back before me, and I could impose a different and much more substantial sentence, including a possible jail sentence, immediately," Riley concluded, addressing Dong.

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