Our View: What constitutes ‘good behavior’?

Our View: What constitutes ‘good behavior’?
The Alexandria Courthouse. (File Photo)

The tragic, baffling and infuriating murder saga of Karla Dominguez has taken another bizarre turn with the sentencing of former bondsman Man Nguyen to one year in jail with all but 30 days suspended for “good behavior.” The sentencing on March 31 followed a Jan. 26 trial where Nguyen was found guilty of criminal contempt of court for his actions in the Dominguez murder case.

We have two questions: How could the sentence have been so light? And exactly when does Nguyen’s “good behavior” begin?

Did it begin when Nguyen, at the time a licensed bondsman, posted $25,000 and signed for the release of Ibrahim Bouaichi, a long-time acquaintance, despite his emphatic refusal to familiarize himself with the terms of that bond?

During his hearing before the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services in September 2020, Nguyen said he was not aware of the terms of Bouaichi’s release because he wrote 16 to 20 bonds a week and it was “not his job” to track, or apparently be aware of, the terms of Bouaichi’s bond. Nguyen’s former boss, Dave Gamble, testified during Nguyen’s trial for criminal contempt of court on Jan. 26 that bondsmen are “not responsible for the behavior” of those they bail out of jail, but they are required to “know the conditions of the bond.”

Did it begin when Nguyen then actively helped Bouaichi violate the terms of his bond by meeting him in a park, employing him at his Kiosk in a nearby Maryland shopping mall or, unbelievably, giving Bouaichi access to his house, car and easily findable handguns and ammunition, which Bouaichi used while Nguyen was away on vacation to allegedly kill Dominguez and then himself?

In Nguyen’s criminal contempt of court trial, Judge Charles Sharp said that Nguyen was being tried for “serious malfeasance … almost on a daily basis.” At the hearing when Nguyen’s bondsman’s license was revoked, presiding officer Terry C. Frye said, “I believe that if a bondsman is acting in a competent manner, he cannot take affirmative steps to enable the Defendant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.”

Did it begin when Nguyen told the Times in an interview in October 2021, of which we have a voice recording, that he knew Bouaichi had been arrested for DUI while out on bond? Or when, according to the Washington Post, Nguyen testified during his contempt of court trial that he was unaware of Bouaichi’s arrest for DUI? Both statements, one in an interview and one under oath, can’t be true.

“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 to the Times. “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?’”

Or did Nguyen’s good behavior begin when he repeatedly showed no remorse for his role in this sad saga, and repeatedly denied any culpability while blaming others?

“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. Former Magistrate Elizabeth Fuller told the Times that before she reported Nguyen to DCJS and he lost his bondsman’s license, he came into the office talking about his role in Bouaichi’s killing of Dominguez. “He was telling this officer about what happened and almost bragging about it. The officer said to me, ‘You will never believe what he just said to me,’” Fuller said.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter, who to his credit did prosecute Nguyen for criminal contempt of court, told the Times that Nguyen’s conviction shows “the defendant made a serious error for which he has rightly been held accountable.”

Is 30 days in jail for “good behavior” being held accountable?

Karla Dominguez was a powerless victim who was failed by the system at every turn. Say her name.