Convicted burglar Aaron Nguyen admitted to breaking into six homes in Los Alamos and taking everything from jewelry and electronics to guns and alcohol. At his July 24 sentencing hearing, Nguyen pled guilty to all 16 counts filed against him. Several victims testified at the hearing, urging District Court Judge Sheri Raphaelson to render a stiffer sentence against the 18-year-old.
Dr. John Michael Pedicini and his wife Georgia were victims of Nguyen’s crime spree, which spanned several months. They told the judge that Nguyen scaled three stories to gain access into their master bedroom to steal more than $6,000 worth of items.
The Pedicinis explained that Nguyen was not a first time offender, was armed when he broke into their home, and it was only by random chance that he did not encounter Mrs. Pedicini as she arrived home for lunch that day.
Nguyen spoke at his July sentencing saying, “I apologize to the victims, to the people I’ve hurt, to the community, my family, my friends and to you judge … I’ve really violated everyone’s trust. I’m working hard to make amends.”
The judge accepted a plea deal and granted Nguyen a conditional discharge that included five years of supervised probation, counseling and treatment, paying restitution to the victims and wearing an electronic monitoring device. She told Nguyen that if he violated any aspect of his probation, he would go to prison for up to 57 years.
Nguyen was arrested last Tuesday at Los Alamos High School and charged with receiving/possessing stolen property over $2,500 in value and tampering with evidence. He is being held in the Los Alamos County jail on a no bond hold for violating his probation.
On Wednesday, the Pedicini’s furnished the Los Alamos Daily Post with their statement to Judge Raphaelson at Nguyen’s July 24 sentencing hearing, to share with the community:
I am Dr. John Michael Pedicini, a Fellow of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. My wife and I wish to address the court as two of the many victims of Mr. Aaron Nguyen.
If Mr. Nguyen had simply engaged in single incident or single day of theft, the rough equivalent of “joy riding”, the proposed plea bargain might be appropriate. However, Mr. Nguyen did more than steal jewelry and cash — he stole alcohol, firearms, broke into gun vaults, and was armed in his victims’ homes. The 16 felonies in the charge, over an extended period of time, indicate a high degree of continued danger to the entire community. The consequences of Mr. Nguyen’s actions, not just to his victims, but to society, are far greater than the consequences to Mr. Nguyen represented by this plea bargain. Mr. Nguyen is not a first time offender, he is a multiple incident offender, with multiple victims, appearing in the court for the first time. Mr. Nguyen’s crime spree was only halted by his arrest.
In our case, Mr. Nguyen climbed up three stories to the private, isolated, master bedroom deck, was armed while illegally in our home, and only by random chance did not encounter my wife, who came home for lunch that day. How far would Mr. Nguyen have gone, armed robbery, murder? It is by sheer luck that we do not know the answer to that question. However, reports in the Los Alamos Monitor about Mr. Nguyen’s encounter with the utility worker are truly frightening.
This sentencing hearing is not just about justice for Mr. Nguyen or restitution for his victims, it is about the message being sent to others who may contemplate criminally entering homes while armed or stealing firearms. The sentence can be a deterrent or a green light to others. We ask the court to make the sentence a deterrent.
I.) Armed while illegally in homes, and stealing firearms
a.) Gun crime in the United States is a serious problem, this court can send a message that carrying a gun while committing a felony will not be tolerated.
b.) This court can reduce the supply of firearms to the criminal world by jailing the people who steal firearms.
c.) The plea deal sends the message to other potential criminals that there is considerable profit in firearms burglary, and negligible downside if caught. This court can reverse this message to deter other criminals.
d.) There are enhancements, enacted by the legislature, for crimes committed with firearms. Those enhancements are specifically to deter firearms crimes. There is no firearms enhancement in this plea deal. In fact, the plea deal seems to condone armed burglary and firearms theft. Only chance may have prevented a more tragic outcome.
We ask the court to stand against gun crime, not condone it, to give a jail sentence and have the felony record of Mr. Nguyen be made permanent and reflect his actual crimes, not the reduced ones in this plea bargain.
II.) We are told Mr. Nguyen deserves to leave the state because he is an honor student.
a.) This logic is puzzling to us. There is more to honor than good grades. What Nr. Nguyen did was not honorable. How can a man with no honor be an honor student? How can New Mexico claim to be honorable while exporting our armed criminals to another state?
b.) There are many honor students who did not commit armed burglary and who go to NM schools.
c.) When I was Mr. Nguyen’s age, I worked outdoors painting houses, fixing roofs, mowing lawns, and literally digging ditches. I worked the night shift on sanitation crews. I did it to earn the money to pay for my JUNIOR year of engineering school. I too was an honor student, with straight As at Purdue University. It never occurred to me to take from those who work, while doing no work of my own, as Mr. Nguyen has done. I am proud of the work that I did, for which I never earned the >$6,000 Mr. Nguyen stole from our home in just a few hours. My daughter was an honor student, and at Mr. Nguyens’ age was training to defend this country at the United States Naval Academy. My son, though severely disabled, was an honor student, and is working his way through school this very summer.
We ask the court to take responsibility for NM citizens by requiring probation to be served in NM. Mr. Nguyen can still pursue a college education while being monitored properly by NM authorities with full knowledge of his crimes. Inflicting Mr. Nguyen upon an unsuspecting student population several states away is dangerous and irresponsible behavior by the State of New Mexico.
III.) What about the victims?
a.) Mr. Nguyen entered our home by climbing a tree to the isolated third story master bedroom deck. Climbing up the tree to access this door is a formidable feat of athletic prowess. This deck door was cracked open to ventilate the house in the summer heat. This door is preferentially opened since it is the most secure opening in the house. This door is not readily visible from the street. Perhaps Mr. Nguyen noticed this door cracked open during his repeated trespass onto our property. Perhaps he noted the door cracked while standing on the roof of his house using optical instruments, which we also have observed him doing. The plea agreement does not even prohibit the conduct that enabled him to know how to enter our home. His entry into our home was not a random event, it required observation and significant physical effort. The police could only advise us to keep ALL windows and doors locked at all times – even when we are home – to protect against future incursions. As you know, most houses in Los Alamos are not air conditioned. We believe that it is the criminal who should be forced to live like they are in prison and not the innocent victims. The plea agreement does not even tell us when we can safely open the windows and doors for relief from the summer heat, as it does not inform the victims of the presence or absence of Mr. Nguyen.
b.) Mr. Nguyen entered and was armed in our home on a day my wife came home from work for lunch. Was the only difference from armed burglary, armed home invasion, armed robbery, or god forbid murder, the random chance that Mr. Nguyen did not confront her? Why was he carrying a firearm while illegally in our home? We are not physically able to stand up to Mr. Nguyen, and now live in fear.
c.) Mr. Nguyen destroyed our sense of privacy by entering the home and searching through our most private personal belongings. Items were taken from multiple rooms, and he had to have searched dresser drawers and closets throughout the house. It was truly disconcerting for us out to contemplate the time Mr. Nguyen spent scrutinizing our personal belongings before deciding which to take.
d.) The total value of the stolen property is over $6000. However, in addition to the items with obvious cash value, many items had significant sentimental value. My wife and I were engaged in high school, but could not afford to get married until I graduated from college; one of the stolen necklaces dates from this time. Our son was born three months prematurely and was one of the sickest babies in the country, it has been a great effort to overcome his severe medical disabilities. One of stolen necklaces was made by our son; it represents a milestone on his arduous path to recovery. These items have no significant cash value, yet Mr. Nguyen stole them anyway. As we recovered from the financial damage of the birth of our son, I was finally able to purchase a nice emerald necklace for my wife. She wore this necklace to remind her of our love while I was undergoing emergency neuro-surgery. Her tears upon telling me that it was stolen were something I will not soon forget.
Mr. Nguyen did not just steal property, he stole our lives. We are no physical match for Mr. Nguyen, who demonstrated his physical prowess by scaling three stories to access our isolated master bedroom. We no longer have a sense of privacy or security in our home of 27 years. Mr. Nguyen has converted our home to a house where we live in fear.
We do not believe Mr. Nguyen is remorseful for his actions. He still has not yet returned all the property that he has stolen from us. His actions were not accidental, the result of poor judgment, or spur of the moment. Mr. Nguyen’s actions were deliberate and thoughtful, required observation of the target and significant physical effort, and took place in complete disregard of the law.
This plea deal asks only that Mr. Nguyen promise never to be bad again, and otherwise allows him to continue with his life as if nothing had happened. Even with a significant sentence Mr. Nguyen may still have a full and productive life if he works at it, but in the meantime, please send a message to other potential criminals that actions really do have consequences.
Finally, we wish to compliment the Los Alamos Police Department for their exceptionally professional and competent conduct in the identification and apprehension of Mr. Nguyen.
John M. Pedicini PhD
Fellow, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Georgia A. Pedicini