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Felon pleads not guilty to five San Francisco murders

By Ronnie Cohen

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A convicted felon who U.S. authorities tried but failed to deport to Vietnam in 2006 pleaded not guilty on Thursday to killing five people found murdered last month in a home in a quiet San Francisco neighborhood.

Binh Thai Luc, 35, shook his head as he stood, shackled and dressed in a red jail-issued sweatshirt and pants, while the charges were read to him in court. A judge set his bail at $25 million.

He faces five counts of murder with the special allegation of using a blunt instrument in the attack, the criminal complaint said. The other special allegations are that Luc was lying in wait for one victim, and that he committed the killings during the course of a robbery and burglary.

The five Asian-American adults killed in the attack were found dead at a home in the Ingleside neighborhood. Luc, who pleaded not guilty to all the charges, was arrested two days later.

Sharon Woo, chief assistant district attorney for San Francisco, told the court her office has not decided whether to seek the death penalty.

Prosecutors have released few details on the possible motive for the slayings or why those people were targeted.

The criminal complaint against Luc lists a prior conviction from the 1990s for second-degree robbery and assault with a firearm, stemming from a robbery at a San Jose, California, restaurant.

After he served eight years in San Quentin State Prison for the robbery, an immigration judge ordered him deported to his native Vietnam, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice has said.

But she said immigration officials had to release him from custody because Vietnam would not take him back.

The next court hearing in the case was set for May 3.

Luc's attorney Mark Goldrosen said his client was a plumber by trade.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Philip Barbara)