Charlie Tan admits to shooting, killing father: ‘I knew I had killed him’

Crime

Pittsford Mendon High School graduate, former Cornell University student admits to killing his father in attempt to reduce his sentence

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Charlie Tan has admitted to killing his father in an attempt to reduce his sentence on federal weapons charges.

In an affidavit filed in Syracuse, the Pittsford Mendon High School graduate, and former Cornell University student, confessed to the killing and wrote about the years of abused endured by his family at the hands of his father, Jim Tan.

“I entered my parents’ home through the back door, walked upstairs, turned into my father’s office and shot my father three times as he was sitting at his desk. I knew I had killed him,” Charlie Tan wrote.

Charlie’s father, Jim Tan, was shot and killed in his Pittsford home in February of 2015.

Charlie Tan was initially charged with murder for his father’s death, but the charges were ultimately dismissed after a judge declared a mistrial in November of 2015. A prosecutor’s appeal for a new trial was unanimously dismissed by the Supreme Court of the State of New York’s Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department in March of 2017.

Then, in September 2017, Charlie Tan faced new federal weapons charges, in connection to the gun that was used in his father’s death.

Charlie Tan would later plead guilty in that case, and he was sentenced to 20 years on those gun charges that linked to the murder of his father.

MORE INFO: Charlie Tan timeline — from father’s fatal shooting to admission of the crime

In the affidavit, Tan detailed multiple instances where he witnessed his father abuse his mother during his life. He explained how things began to worsen once he started his educated at Cornell University, away from home.

He said he checked with his mother multiple times discussing everyday matters, to the concerns of her safety. On Feb. 4, 2015 Tan wrote that his mother indicated the “next time” his father would kill her.

“I knew that in killing my father I would be throwing away my future, but I wasn’t thinking of that after the February 4 call. I did not think past getting a gun, shooting my father, taking my mother to Canada and fleeing to China. I knew that killing my father was wrong but in my own mind I felt I had to do so to protect my mother,” Tan wrote.

According to Charlie’s affidavit, he followed the advice of his lawyers in the past and denied shooting his father.

“They [attorneys] advised me not to admit that I shot my father. They were the legal experts, and so I accepted that strategy, even though I knew what I had done was wrong.”

“We know who purchased the gun. We know who admitted it. We know the rationale and the reason,” says Bill Gargan with the Domestic Violence Bureau of Monroe County. He was also a prosecutor on the case. Gargan says he’s not surprised by the turn of events with Tan. 


“We spent a bit of effort trying to convict him of a crime he’s now admitted,” he says.

“I think ultimately this is another effort to engage the judicial system that will be beneficial for him,” says Gargan.

Gargan says the next steps are out of the state’s hands. Judge Piampiano declared a mistrial in the death of Tan’s father, and the jury couldn’t reach a verdict. At the next court appearance, the court granted a motion of dismissal. 

“What the judge did was wrong. So what we did next is just cooperate with the federal prosecutors who next have the case,” he says.

Legal expert Robert Brenna with Brenna Boyce says there was a solid case when this went to state court. With this on the federal level, he feels there will be more to look at, including the mental health of Tan, amongst other things. Like Gargen, he feels Tan might see an opportunity here. 

“The court may be considering the fact that Tan now is apparently saying ‘I did this’, and the hope may be that they will have a re-sentencing,” says Brenna.

When asked if he feel vindicated with Tan’s new admission, Gargan says not so much. 

“A man had his face blown off. I’m a civil servant who get to work with people who are touched by domestic violence. Vindication is something I don’t try to seek, or deserve. I just do my job,” says Gargan.

Legally, Charlie Tan and his defense counsel filed a lengthy motion to vacate/set aside the sentence (pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255). The motion includes 27 exhibits of evidence, and a 51-page psychological evaluation, according to U.S. Attorneys. Given the volume of exhibits, federal prosecutors requested an additional 60 days to review the file.

Section 2255 provides that “prisoners” may move for relief “on the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack.” It is available only to people convicted in federal courts who are in custody.

Charlie Tan is due back in court March 6, 2020.

Charlie Tan affidavit

U.S. Attorney’s letter to the judge

28 U.S.C. 2255

Past coverage:

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

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