By Cody Mello-Klein | [email protected]
Man Nguyen, the bail bondsman involved in the Karla Dominguez murder case, will be released from jail on Friday, after serving less than a week in jail for contempt of court.
Nguyen’s release comes after he and his attorney filed an appeal following the sentencing hearing on March 31, when he was sentenced to a year in jail with 11 months suspended for good behavior. Nguyen, who was convicted on Jan. 26 in Alexandria Circuit Court for contempt of court, was on trial for his actions after posting bond for Ibrahim Bouaichi, an acquaintance who had been charged with assaulting and raping Dominquez in 2019. On July 29, 2020, Bouaichi used Nguyen’s gun and car to allegedly kill Dominguez – and then himself – while out on bond.
Nguyen claimed he was unaware of the terms of Bouaichi’s bond – which involved Bouaichi remaining at his parents’ home in Greenbelt, Maryland – despite having signed the bond release. However, Ngueyn was later found to have helped Bouaichi violate his bond, hiring Bouaichi to work at his Arundel Mills Mall kiosk and giving him the keys to his car and house, in which there were two loaded handguns, while away on vacation.
Alexandria Magistrate Elizabeth Fuller later reported Nguyen to the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services for violating his oath as a bondsman. DCJS investigated Nguyen and eventually revoked his bondsman’s license. Fuller spoke to the Times about reporting Nguyen and was later fired for speaking to the paper.
Nguyen served five days in jail before his attorney filed an appeal, an option given to any defendant in a criminal case. According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter, after the sentencing hearing, Judge Charles Sharp ordered that if Nguyen and his attorney noted an appeal of the conviction, Nguyen would be released on bail pending the resolution of the appeal. Porter said Nguyen’s appeal is par for the course in most criminal cases.
“It would be completely understandable in a case like this that an appeal would be taken. Generally speaking, in almost every criminal case in which a conviction is obtained, the defense usually seeks to appeal any relevant matters to the court of appeals,” Porter said.
After a defendant notes an appeal to the court of appeals, there is typically a lengthy process before a decision is made. At the very least, a judge in the court of appeals will review the case and make a decision based on the exhibits and evidence from the trial. However, either party can then appeal that decision, which sends it to another level of review. Each decision in the appeal process can be appealed, moving the case up the judicial ladder until it could potentially appear in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Porter said cases rarely get to that point in the appeals process, but regardless of where the appeal ends, the process can take a while.
“It’s a pretty lengthy process for the appeals to be exhausted, but most cases that are appealed I would say are resolved within a year of the appeal being noted,” Porter said.
During that time, Nguyen will be out on bond. However, even if the conviction is upheld at the end of the appeals process, Nguyen will likely only serve another week of jail time due to Virginia’s laws around sentencing time.
Nguyen was already sentenced with 11 months suspended for good behavior, leaving his sentence at about 30 days. That sentence would be further reduced if Nguyen’s good behavior earns him good conduct credit. According to Virginia code 53.1-116, “each prisoner sentenced to 12 months or less for a misdemeanor or any combination of misdemeanors shall earn good conduct credit at the rate of one day for each one day served, including all days served while confined in jail prior to conviction and sentencing, in which the prisoner has not violated the written rules and regulations of the jail.”
In essence, for every day served, defendants in Virginia misdemeanor cases like Nguyen’s get a second day of credit for good conduct, reducing their overall sentence by half. As a result of good behavior, Nguyen’s 30-day misdemeanor sentence would be reduced to 15 days, six of which he already served prior to his release. If his conviction was upheld, under Virginia code, Nguyen would likely serve about nine more days of jail time.
Most states have a version of Virginia’s good conduct credit or earned sentence credit program. After the state abolished parole in 1995, the sentence credit program was created as a way to incentivize good behavior, in lieu of parole hearings. Porter said that despite Nguyen’s release, he still feels like the former bondsman has been held accountable for his involvement in the case.
“I don’t think that the noting of an appeal detracts from the accountability,” Porter said. “I think people are entitled to due process, and I have confidence in the conviction that we obtained and I anticipate that the appeal will ultimately not be successful. But obviously I have faith in the rule of law, and if the law allows the defendant to note his appeal, I look forward to having the appeal dealt with and hopefully in a successful manner.”