SAN JOSE -- An immigrant from Taiwan with experience trying gang cases was named Monday by District Attorney Jeff Rosen as one of his top five assistants.

Scott Tsui, 46, will become the first Asian-American in Santa Clara County to serve as an assistant district attorney when David Tomkins retires later this month after 25 years.

Tsui, a fluent Mandarin speaker, emigrated to Hayward when he was 14 years old. After school, he and his sisters helped their parents run a mom-and-pop grocery store in San Leandro. He also cleaned bingo parlors, a difficult job that included emptying overflowing ashtrays. He also worked for a construction company.

Asked to drop back a grade when he first arrived because of the language barrier, Tsui nonetheless became such a strong student that he eventually was accepted to UC Berkeley. He attended law school at Golden Gate University and has been a prosecutor for 20 years, including 17 in Santa Clara County.

"I am inspired by Scott Tsui's dedication to this country and to public service," Rosen said. "We share a common goal: To make sure this prosecutor's office is as outstanding as it can be and serves our community by ensuring equal justice for all."

Tsui has been supervising the office's economic crimes unit for the past seven years. While at the DA's office, he also worked with the U.S. attorney's office as a special assistant attorney, prosecuting federal and international white-collar crime cases. He is married with an 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son.


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Tsui did not support former DA Dolores Carr or Rosen in the hard-fought 2010 election. But he says he shares Rosen's goals.

"This office is one of the top in the state,'' Tsui said. "And as society evolves, we have to be even more fair, more cautious about innocence. This is what Jeff has brought to the office and I believe in that.''

Tsui's appointment thrilled members of the National Asian Pacific Islander Prosecutors Association. The group, led by Northern California chapter president and local prosecutor Charles Huang, lobbied for Tsui last year when there was another executive opening on Rosen's team.

"It gives everyone hope,'' Huang said. "Scott is just a wonderful role model to show kids who recently arrived here -- whether they are Chinese-American, Korean-American or Japanese-American -- that they can come and serve justice.''

Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.