Bondsman’s gun used in murder of Dominguez

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Bondsman’s gun used in murder of Dominguez
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By Olivia Anderson | [email protected]

Content warning: This story contains graphic details of a sexual assault.

The homicide of Alexandria resident Karla Dominguez last summer sparked widespread uproar because her alleged murderer, Ibrahim Bouaichi, had been released on bond in April despite having been indicted for allegedly raping and assaulting Dominguez in October 2019.

Now, new information reveals that the bondsman who posted bail for Bouaichi knew him beforehand and that both the vehicle and weapon Bouaichi used to commit the murder belonged to the bondsman, Man Nguyen.

According to documents acquired by the Alexandria Times through a resident-submitted FOIA request, Nguyen, a surety bondsman with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, posted the $25,000 bail to release Bouaichi from the Alexandria Detention Center after Bouaichi’s sister reached out.

The terms of the bond, which were set by now retired Circuit Court Judge Nolan B. Dawkins, required Bouaichi to remain at his parents’ home in Greenbelt, Maryland. Prosecutors from the Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office did not ask that Bouaichi be given a GPS tracking ankle bracelet, and Dawkins did not order one.

Despite signing for Bouaichi’s bond, Nguyen later claimed at a DCJS hearing during which he was stripped of his bondsman’s license that he was not aware of the terms of Bouaichi’s release because he wrote between 16 and 20 bonds per week and he contended that it was “not his job” to track the Defendant’s compliance with the conditions of his bond.

In addition to not reporting that Bouaichi was living in a tent in the woods instead of with his parents, Nguyen employed Bouaichi at a kiosk in Arundel Mills Mall, asked him to dog-sit his two dogs, gave him the keys to his house and car and left a bag containing unlocked handguns in the closet of his house, according to the DCJS hearing document.

On July 29, 2020, in the midst of Nguyen’s two days at the beach, Bouaichi took Nguyen’s car and gun, drove to Dominguez’ Alexandria apartment and allegedly fatally shot her.

Nguyen testified that he had known Bouaichi off and on for 10 years and considered him a “nice guy,” according to the unredacted case file that the Times received.

A complaint was filed by the Alexandria Magistrate in August 2020 regarding Nguyen’s involvement in the case and Nguyen subsequently lost his bail bond license, but the case raises questions as to how the existing criminal justice process allowed this tragic string of events to unfold as it did.

Karla Dominguez and Ibrahim Bouaichi

Back in October 2019, Dominguez accused Bouaichi of raping her in her home. Bouaichi was arrested and detained without bond at the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention center and testified at a preliminary hearing in December 2019.

In January 2020, a grand jury indicted Bouaichi on five felonious charges: rape, sodomy, strangulation, malicious wounding and abduction with the intent to defile. While awaiting his trial in jail, which was originally set for March 30, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the trial date was deferred to May 4.

On April 8, 2020, Bouaichi’s defense lawyers filed a bond motion requesting he be released from jail, citing a case for factual innocence, the right to a speedy trial and Bouaichi’s potential for contracting COVID-19 while in jail. They also argued that Bouaichi was not a threat to the community, did not have a criminal record and had already been incarcerated for six months.

Bouaichi’s lawyers shared several details from the night of the alleged rape in October, including that Bouaichi, who had been in a relationship with Dominguez for four months, had driven Dominguez to her place of employment in D.C. where she worked as an exotic pole dancer. But instead of going to work, defense attorneys said at the bond hearing that the two went to several bars.

Frank Salvato, one of Bouaichi’s lawyers, said that after the incident, Dominguez told a sexual assault nurse examiner that “she had had alcohol during the course of the evening and she could not even remember the quantity of alcohol, where the alcohol was taken, what she had to drink or anything along those lines,” according to the bond transcript acquired by the Times.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Strange, however, said that Bouaichi drove around to several bars trying to find cocaine instead of driving Dominguez to her job. The two got into an argument and Dominguez left for home in an Uber.

Bouaichi showed up at her apartment uninvited about an hour later after she got home, at which point prosecutors said Dominguez ran into the bathroom inside her bedroom and locked the door.

“The defendant entered through the sliding glass patio door and broke into the bathroom. He strangled her and dragged her by the hair into the living room and kitchen area, dragged her back into the bedroom where he forced her to perform oral sex and forcibly raped her,” Strange said at the bond hearing.

Karla Elizabeth Dominguez Gonzalez

Strange also said forensic evidence corroborated Dominguez’ version of events: a SANE report revealed evidence of a genital injury and detectives found an injury consistent with a bite mark on Bouaichi’s arm.

“There was hair that has been pulled out and broken fingernails as well, and Dominguez also told the police that she even bit the defendant’s arm while he was raping her,” Strange said.

Still, Dawkins ruled in favor of Bouaichi’s lawyers’ request for his release.

The 22-minute April 2020 bond hearing resulted in Judge Dawkins setting a $25,000 bond, $5,000 for each charge, and ordering Bouaichi to stay at his parents’ home in Greenbelt, Maryland except when meeting with his counsel or pretrial services.

“The defendant is to remain at his parents’ home and have no other travel outside of, I guess, his community, except to meet with his attorney,” Dawkins said at the April 2020 bond hearing.

Dawkins did not order Bouaichi to wear a GPS tracking device and the prosecution, led by Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter’s office, did not request one.

Man Nguyen

On April 9, 2020, Nguyen, who had been a bail bondsman for five years, signed the recognizance that included these conditions, meaning that he “either knew or in the competent exercise of his duty as a bail bondsman, should have been known prior” to signing the bond, according to argument laid out by DCJS.

“I either don’t recall or have no knowledge on the condition of his bond set by the courts [condition for Bouaichi not to leave his parents’ house except for special circumstances],” Nguyen said in his written testimony to DCJS. “I only found out about his condition of his bond as report [sic] by the news media after her murder. And I didn’t see any ankle electronics monitor on him.”

In his testimony, Nguyen also stated that he did not remember the conditions of Bouaichi’s release because he wrote between 16 and 20 bonds per week and contended that it was “not his job” to track Bouaichi’s compliance with his bond conditions.

Nguyen testified that before the July 29 murder, Bouaichi reached out on Facebook asking to go to the park to meet Nguyen’s 2-year-old son.

“We would regularly go to the park like a few time [sic] per week to go get exercise and let my son play in the playground,” Nguyen wrote in an emailed statement to DCJS Regulatory Investigator KerriAnne Cooper.

Because he didn’t see Bouaichi wearing an ankle monitor, Nguyen claimed he did not think Bouaichi was violating the conditions of his bond.

Nguyen said that he and Bouaichi discussed the details of his charges “many times” but that Bouaichi always maintained his innocence and said that he and Dominguez had a relationship. According to Nguyen, Bouaichi told him that because Dominguez was not a citizen and did not possess a green card, the only way she could avoid deportation was to claim to be the victim in a sexual crime.

“He has always maintained his innocence to me and claim [sic] to me that she is an illegal alien and she cry [sic] rape so she don’t get deported by ICE. He said base [sic] on what her immigration lawyer told her, the only way she can’t be deported is if she is a victim of a sexual crime,” Nguyen testified.

“So therefore he claim [sic] she falsely accused him a few weeks later. And also he claim [sic] he never been arrested before ever in life [sic]. So I gave him the benefit of the doubt so I believe him,” Nguyen said.

In order to “help out” Bouaichi, Nguyen offered him a job as a cashier at his kiosk in the Arundel Mills shopping mall.

“I would pick him up and take him to work daily. He was a great employee and get [sic] along great with other employees and customers. He never stole any money,” Nguyen wrote in his testimony.

Nguyen testified that he planned a trip to Ocean City, Maryland from July 28 to July 30 and asked Bouaichi to watch his two dogs while he was away.

According to Nguyen, while the initial agreement was for Bouaichi to watch the dogs at Bouaichi’s parents’ home, the only place he was allowed to inhabit per the terms of his bail, Bouaichi and his parents subsequently got in a fight and they kicked him out. Bouaichi was living in a tent in the woods, Nguyen said, so he offered Bouaichi his car, a 2013 black Nissan Altima, and home to stay in while he watched the dogs.

“I asked him if he can watch my dogs for 2 days still, but at my home this time because obviously he is still homeless. I gave him the keys to my home and car (only to go work or get food),” Nguyen wrote.

Nguyen testified that on the day of his trip he removed two handguns, the ammunition, his professional badge and his handcuffs from his car and put them into a hidden place in his bathroom with towels on top of them. Nguyen said he did not tell Bouaichi there were firearms in his home.

Man Nguyen

Nguyen’s handgun endorsement had expired four months prior, on March 30, 2020. On Feb. 3, 2020, DCJS fined him $500 due to a late payment of forfeited bail bonds.

Nguyen claimed that he tried to call Bouaichi several times while away, but that the calls went unanswered. Upon arriving home two days later, on July 30, he discovered his car and handguns were missing and subsequently called the police, Nguyen testified.

Bouaichi allegedly killed Dominguez on July 29 using Nguyen’s handgun. He then led police on a high-speed chase on Aug. 5 in Nguyen’s Nissan. During the chase Bouaichi shot himself, again using Nguyen’s gun, and died three days later.

On Aug. 6, 2020, Alexandria Magistrate Elizabeth Fuller filed a complaint with DCJS stating that Nguyen had violated several statutes and regulations of his licensure. On Aug. 14, 2020, DCJS sent Nguyen a Notice of Summary Suspension, Intent to Revoke Registration and Notice of Informal Fact Finding Conference.

An Informal Fact Finding Conference was held on Sept. 1, 2020 to determine whether the department had a proper basis to sanction or summarily revoke Nguyen’s surety bail bond license due to code violations.

The reported code violations included conducting a bail bond transaction that demonstrates bad faith, dishonesty, coercion, incompetence, extortion or untrustworthiness; coercing, suggesting aiding and abetting, offering promise of favor or threatening any person on whose bond he is surety or offers to become surety, to induce that person to commit any crime; and failing to comply with any of the statutory or regulatory requirements governing licensed bail bondsman.

Jean Humbrecht, Nguyen’s counsel at the DCJS hearing, contended at the Informal Fact Finding Conference that Nguyen did not violate any bail bond statute or regulation applicable to the facts of this case. Humbrecht argued that his “only statutory duty” was to ensure Bouaichi’s appearance in court “and that his duty did not include helping to ensure that the Defendant did not violate the terms of his bond,” according to the files sent to the Times.

Humbrecht submitted legal definitions of “conduct,” “bad faith,” “dishonesty” and “incompetence” to make the point that Nguyen did not specifically violate any applicable law.

Presiding Hearing Officer Terry C. Frye refuted these claims by providing examples of Nguyen’s exhibited incompetence, such as allowing Bouaichi full access to his home, not owning a gun safe or trigger locks and failing to ascertain whether Bouaichi working at his kiosk would itself violate the terms of his bond.

“I believe that if a bondsman is acting in a competent manner, he cannot take affirmative steps to enable the Defendant to violate the terms of the bond, which the bondsman himself has signed off on,” Frye said.

Ultimately, Frye determined that DCJS acted “properly and within the bounds of the law” in summarily suspending Nguyen’s surety bail bond license and affirmed the revoking of his license.

“[The Department Director] summarily suspended the Respondent’s bail bond license because she specifically found that the Respondent’s continued operations would constitute a potentially life-threatening situation, or result in personal injury or loss to the public or to a consumer, or that may result in imminent harm, personal injury or loss,” Frye said during his testimony. “Clearly, the deaths of two individuals, including the alleged victim of a previous serious crime, constitute an injury or loss to the public.”

Nguyen’s conduct was determined to have constituted “grounds for disciplinary actions,” but only insofar as licensure is concerned. The Times has not uncovered any information indicating that Nguyen has faced a criminal investigation since his license suspension.

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