Our View: All systems failed

Our View: All systems failed
The Alexandria Courthouse. (Photo/Missy Schrott)

Karla Dominguez should still be alive.

There is no other conclusion to draw after reviewing the many facets that contributed to her death last July. Ibrahim Bouaichi apparently pulled the trigger that killed her, as he used the same gun to kill himself. But the system that allowed this to happen utterly failed both of them.

The latest revelation in this case is simply staggering: The gun Bouaichi used in the murder and suicide and the vehicle he drove to Dominguez’ apartment on July 29, 2020 both belonged to the bondsman who had posted Bouaichi’s bail. See “Bondsman’s gun used in murder of Dominguez,” on page 1 for the full story.

The bondsman in this case, Man Nguyen, posted Bouaichi’s $25,000 bail to free him after Bouaichi had been indicted by a grand jury on five felonious counts of rape, sodomy, strangulation, abduction with the intent to defile and malicious wounding.

Nguyen literally signed for Bouaichi’s release, the terms of which required Bouaichi to reside with his parents in Maryland and stay away from Dominguez. Nguyen either ignored, or, as he claimed at the hearing where he was ultimately stripped of his bondsman’s license, was ignorant of the terms of Bouaichi’s release. Both are unacceptable.

Another astonishing aspect of this case is that Bouaichi was arrested near his parents’ home of Greenbelt, Maryland a month after Nguyen posted his Virginia bond and was charged with several traffic offenses, including reckless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol. Bouaichi was released on bond in that case too on May 10, according to Maryland court records.

How could there not have been communication between jurisdictions? Did the Circuit Court here in Virginia not notify Maryland they were releasing a man accused of five violent felonies into their midst?

Was Nguyen unaware that the man he had risked $25,000 to free had subsequently been arrested again and released again on bond? Any licensed bondsman would surely know that a subsequent arrest would revoke the prior release. The topic did not come up in Nguyen’s licensure hearing.

There were many other failings in this case.

Circuit Court Judge Nolan B. Dawkins decided after a 22-minute hearing to release Bouaichi on April 9, 2020, even though the judges presiding over Bouaichi’s preliminary hearing on Dec. 11, 2019 and the grand jury in January – where he was indicted on the five felonious charges – declined to do so.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office sent a different prosecutor to the April 9 bond hearing than had prosecuted before the grand jury in January. In the view of a retired judge who spoke anonymously in the Times’ Sept. 29 story “Bond hearing transcript reveals details about Karla Dominguez homicide case,” the Commonwealth’s Attorney lawyer did not rebut arguments by Bouaichi’s lawyers vigorously enough at that hearing.

There are clearly significant problems with the operation of the Circuit Court in Virginia, particularly with conditions on bail. There does not appear to be any enforcement mechanism, nor any one department or entity that is responsible for overseeing the conditions of bail.

If we are wrong, we hope someone will tell us who was responsible for Bouaichi’s compliance – because that person or entity should be held accountable.

Where there’s no enforcement, there’s little compliance. As the sad case of Karla Dominguez illustrates, the consequences of a lack of oversight can be tragic.