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Bail set for California woman charged with cutting off husband's penis

By Michael Martinez and Lindsey Brylow, CNN
Catherine Kieu Becker, 48, is facing torture and aggravated mayhem charges in the knifing incident.
Catherine Kieu Becker, 48, is facing torture and aggravated mayhem charges in the knifing incident.
  • NEW: A judge sets bail at $1 million and rejects a request to bar courtroom cameras
  • Catherine Kieu Becker, 48, is charged with aggravated mayhem and torture
  • She is accused of drugging her husband and cutting off his penis, police say
  • The couple is going through a divorce

Westminster, California (CNN) -- The arraignment of Catherine Kieu Becker, the Southern California woman accused of cutting off her husband's penis and throwing it into a garbage disposal, was continued Friday to September 23 at the request of her public defender.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Debra Carrillo also set bail at $1 million for Becker, 48, who had been held without bail since her arrest this month. She is charged with torture and aggravated mayhem.

The judge also rejected her attorney's request to bar cameras from the courtroom. Orange County Deputy Public Defender Frank Bittar unsuccessfully argued that the intense media coverage would jeopardize Becker's ability to get a fair trial.

Bittar also argued that the media coverage could lead to threats against Becker while in jail, but the judge said authorities aren't aware of any such threats.

When she entered the courtroom inside a defendants' cage, Becker draped her long black hair over her face to hide from cameras. She was shackled and dressed in a blue jumpsuit.

Though authorities said she speaks English, a translator spoke to her in Vietnamese during the court proceedings.

"At this stage in the proceeding, I believe what we have before me is a citizen accused and not someone presumed guilty," the judge told the defense in ruling against the camera ban request. She added: "There are no threats we're aware of."

After the hearing, Bittar declined to comment the day's events other than to say: "There's a lot more to the case than meets the eye."

The Vietnam-born Becker, who is also known as Que Anh Tran, is also facing special allegations, or sentencing enhancements, for great bodily injury and personal use of a deadly weapon, specifically a knife, according to the felony complaint.

If convicted on all counts, she would face a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole, prosecutors said.

An initial police investigation alleged that Becker, of Garden Grove, California, put a drug or poison in her 60-year-old husband's dinner on July 11 to make him sleepy.

Senior Deputy District Attorney John Christl said a toxicology inquiry looking into the alleged drugging should be completed in two to three weeks.

"I'd be speculating as to what the toxicology might show and what drug if any" may be involved, Christl told reporters after the hearing.

The defense sought the delay in the arraignment because Becker's attorney is new to the case and needs time to review police reports with his clients, Christl said.

Becker told authorities her husband "deserved it" when officers arrived at the scene after she called 911, the police report says.

The couple married in December 2009, but separated in April. The husband filed for divorce on May 16 in Orange County Superior Court, citing "irreconcilable differences," according to the divorce papers.

They have no children, and their only shared assets are a condominium and a 2010 Toyota Prius, court papers said.

He is listed as president of a fabric and design firm whose address is the same as his residence, court papers show. She recently submitted a license application to become a real estate agent, Christl said.

On the night of July 11, Becker and her husband argued about friends staying at their Garden Grove residence, prosecutors said in a news release.

Becker served her husband dinner, and after feeling tired at about 9 p.m., he went to bed, authorities said.

Becker then tied her husband's legs and arms to the four corners of the bed with nylon rope, according to the district attorney's office. As he woke, she pulled down his pants, grabbed his penis and severed it with a knife, prosecutors said.

Becker then took the penis to the kitchen, threw it into the garbage disposal and turned it on, "mutilating the organ," the prosecutors' statement said.

The husband underwent emergency surgery at UC Irvine Medical Center, authorities said. He has since returned home, but prosecutors weren't commenting on the husband's condition out of respect for his privacy.

The Orange County case has been widely compared to the1993 attack against John Wayne Bobbitt by his then-wife, Lorena, who cut off his penis with an 8-inch carving knife while he slept.

Lorena Bobbitt then drove away, tossing the penis out her car window. The penis was eventually found and surgically reattached.

Lorena Bobbitt was later found innocent by reason of insanity. During her testimony, she tearfully described her life at the hands of her abusive husband.

In a separate trial, John Wayne Bobbitt was acquitted of sexually assaulting his wife. He later made appearances on "The Howard Stern Show." He also made a number of adult films.