By Olivia Anderson | firstname.lastname@example.org
On March 31, Man Nguyen, the bail bondsman involved in the Karla Dominguez murder case, was sentenced to one year in jail for contempt of court with all but 30 days suspended for good behavior. Judge Charles Sharp said during trial that Nguyen was being tried for “serious malfeasance … almost on a daily basis.” The sentencing follows a Jan. 26 conviction in Alexandria Circuit Court, for “exhibiting disobedience or resistance of an officer of the court, juror, witness or other person to any lawful process, judgment, decree or order of the court.” Nguyen was on trial because of his behavior after posting bond back in April 2020 for an acquaintance, Ibrahim Bouaichi, with whom he had been friendly for around 10 years. Nguyen was later shown to have helped Bouaichi violate the terms of his bond, terms that Nguyen claimed to be unaware of despite having signed the bond release. Bouaichi later used Nguyen’s handgun and car to kill Dominguez and himself.
Dave Gamble, Nguyen’s former boss, testified that bondsmen are “not responsible for the behavior” of those they bail out of jail but conceded that the bondsmen he works with are required to “know the conditions of the bond.” Nguyen said during trial that he wasn’t aware of violating conditions, a sentiment he expressed to the Times back in October during an interview.
Nguyen said that even though he signed the recognizance, he did not remember the terms of Bouaichi’s bond and that Bouaichi did not remind him.
“ … I wish he did tell me that because if I did continue to hang out with him and take him out of the house, then of course I would [be violating] the judge’s order. But he never told me that, so I’m thinking that he’s out as a free man on bond, that he can do what he wants as long as he doesn’t get in trouble,” Nguyen told the Times last year.
According to the Washington Post, Nguyen also claimed in court that he was unaware that Bouaichi, despite being on house arrest, had been arrested again in May 2020 in Maryland for driving under the influence.
But Nguyen told the Alexandria Times otherwise. In an interview with the Times in October 2021, Nguyen said that Bouaichi called and told him about the arrest.
“I don’t recall [when] exactly, but he called me and told me, ‘Yeah, I got arrested a month ago, blah blah blah, got a DUI in the Wendy’s parking lot, you know,’” Nguyen said. “And in my mind I’m like, ‘If he got arrested again or whatever, shouldn’t pretrial violate his condition and put him back in jail?’”
The Alexandria Sheriff’s Department was at the time responsible for pretrial conditions. Former Sheriff Dana Lawhorne did not respond to a Times request for comment about Nguyen’s assertion.
In October 2019, Bouaichi was arrested after Dominguez accused him of assaulting and raping her. In January 2020, a grand jury indicted him for five violent felonies: rape, sodomy, strangulation, malicious wounding and abduction with the intent to defile. Bouaichi’s trial was originally set for March 30, 2020, but due to the pandemic, it was deferred to May 4. Following a 20-minute bond hearing on April 8, Judge Nolan B. Dawkins, who has since retired, ordered Bouaichi released without a GPS tracking bracelet after Bouaichi’s attorneys argued there was not enough evidence for him to be held in jail.
Bouaichi’s sister knew Nguyen was a bondsman and asked him to post the $25,000 bond – $5,000 for each felony for which he had been indicted. Bouaichi was ordered to stay at his parents’ home in Greenbelt, Maryland. While Bouaichi was awaiting trial, Nguyen hired him to work at his kiosk in the Arundel Mills Mall and gave Bouaichi the key to his house while Nguyen went on vacation – with loaded handguns hidden in the bathroom closet and permission to use his car.
Bouaichi used Nguyen’s gun and car on July 29, 2020, while Nguyen was out of town, to drive to Dominguez’ apartment and kill her.
“My only bad judgment was to trust this individual,” Nguyen said in January, defending himself against the charge that he violated the recognizance he signed by helping Bouaichi violate the terms of his bond.
Magistrate Elizabeth Fuller reported Nguyen to the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice services for violating his oath. DCJS opened an investigation and revoked Nguyen’s license in September 2020. Fuller was later fired for speaking with the Times about her decision to file the complaint.
Commonwealth’s attorney Bryan Porter said he did not know what went into Sharp’s sentencing decision on Nguyen.
“This was a very unusual case. I am not aware of any other criminal contempt cases in our court at least since I’ve been elected,” Porter said.
However, Porter also noted that Nguyen’s conviction and subsequent sentencing was a step in the right direction.
“While this conviction in no way atones for the absolute tragedy which occurred in this case, the defendant made a serious error for which he has rightly been held accountable. All officers of the court must understand that compliance with a court’s bond order is not optional, that signing court documents under oath means something, and that repeatedly allowing the egregious violation of an order of the court carries consequences.”