Following his sentencing this morning, convicted burglar Aaron Nguyen, center, leaves the courtroom in the Justice Center as his father holds the door for him. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Los Alamos Police Det. Sgt. Oliver Morris, left, and Det. Daniel Roberts speak to the father of convicted burglar Aaron Nguyen outside the courtroom at the Justice Center following this morning’s plea deal. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Judge Sheri A. Raphaelson accepted a plea agreement this morning in District Court in the burglary case of Aaron Nguyen, 18, of Los Alamos.
Nguyen pled guilty to all 16 counts against him for burglarizing six homes in Los Alamos including the home he burglarized before turning 18.
Raphaelson granted Nguyen a conditional discharge during today’s proceedings at the Justice Center in downtown Los Alamos. The conditional discharge includes 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 violates any aspect of his probation, he will go to prison for up to 57 years.
The former honor student from Los Alamos High School was arrested at the school in May. A search of his North Mesa bedroom uncovered jewelry, electronics, alcohol, weapons and ammunition reported stolen by the victims over several months starting late last year. He had one or more firearms in his backpack when carrying out the burglaries, according to court testimony.
Nguyen’s father is a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He told the judge his son was diagnosed two months ago with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and depression. He said his two older brothers also were honor students. The eldest is a doctor and their middle son is a physicist who recently graduated from UC-Santa Cruz. He said the family had lived in their North Mesa home for nearly 28 years but is willing to move to a rural area of Santa Fe where they can focus on getting their youngest son the help he needs.
He and his wife spoke to the judge before turning to face several victims present in the courtroom this morning. They gave tearful apologies for their son’s actions, saying it broke their hearts when they heard what he had done.
Nguyen also spoke at today’s hearing.
“I apologize to the victims, to the people I’ve hurt, to the community, my family, my friends and to you judge,” Nguyen said. “I’ve really violated everyone’s trust. I’m working hard to make amends.”
Several victims testified this morning and urged the judge to render a stiffer sentence.
“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,” said Dr. John Michael Pedicini, a Fellow at LANL. “If Mr. Nguyen had simply engaged in a 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 victim’s homes. The 16 felonies in the charge, over an extended period of time, indicate a high degree of continued danger to the community … Mr. Nguyen’s crime spree was only halted by his arrest.”
Pedicini publicly commended the detectives of the Los Alamos Police Department, “for their exceptionally professional and competent conduct in the identification and apprehension of Mr. Nguyen.”
Allison Majure is another victim in this case. She told the judge that she has known Nguyen for several years because he went to school with her sons. “Aaron knows what’s going on. He chose to break the law and someone breaking the law six times ought to pay the consequences,” she said.
Majure explained to the judge that because someone is educated and able to articulate their case and afford to pay restitution doesn’t mean they should receive leniency. Her son also spoke as a victim telling the judge his mother bought him the components of a computer, which he had to build. The computer can be replaced, he said, but it took him a longtime to build it and Nguyen stole it.
Other witnesses testified saying Nguyen not only stole their property but he altered their lives. They’ve changed the locks on the doors of their homes and no longer feel safe.
“My children sleep with baseball bats beside their beds because it makes them feel safer,” Leslie Pfaff said.
After listening to the victims, prosecutor, defending lawyer, Nguyen and his parents, the judge agreed to the plea deal.
“I think it was well thought out,” Raphaelson said of the plea agreement reached between Assistant District Attorney Kent Wahlquist and attorney Steve Aarons, representing Nguyen. “In sentencing, I look at the best way we can help the individual and help the community … It looks like these acts were the result of undiagnosed conditions.”
At the end of this morning’s proceeding, Raphaelson looked at Nguyen and said, “It’s fortunate this came to light early on where you can get treatment and achieve positive goals.”
Police logged stolen jewelry and ammunition into evidence last May, which were discovered in Aaron Nguyen’s North Mesa bedroom. Print Screen photo
Police logged an arsenal of stolen weapons into evidence last May, which were discovered in Aaron Nguyen’s North Mesa bedroom. Print Screen photo
Police logged stolen alcohol and electronic equipment into evidence last May that had been reported stolen by his neighbors over several months. The items were discovered in Aaron Nguyen’s North Mesa bedroom. Print Screen photo