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Convicted burglar Aaron Nguyen, 18, dodged some serious jail time this week when First Judicial District Court Judge Sheri Raphaelson ordered him instead to undergo supervised counseling at a mental health facility.
Nguyen, home for the Thanksgiving break from New Mexico State University, was arrested at Los Alamos High School for trespassing as well as receiving/transferring stolen property and tampering with evidence.
According to Nguyen’s lawyer, Santa Fe attorney Steve Aarons, the stolen property charge was a result of Nguyen having a camera on his person stolen during a rash of burglaries he committed earlier this year.
“He was doing well at school, came back for the long weekend and was visiting the courtyard of the high school with friends who hadn’t graduated yet and he really wasn’t supposed to be there,” Aarons said. “He just happened to have the camera on him.”
For those prior burglary offenses, Nguyen was sentenced in July of this year to five years of supervised probation by Los Alamos Magistrate Court Judge Pat Casados on the condition that if he violated his probation by committing another crime, he’d be facing 54 years in prison.
In his sentencing for those crimes, Casados took into consideration that Nguyen was suffering from a combination of bipolar and obsessive compulsive disorders that until he was arrested for the burglaries, went untreated. His probation conditions also required of him to seek treatment of his illness through medication and therapy.
In Nguyen’s district court appearance this week, Aarons successfully argued before the court that Nguyen’s recent arrest was a direct result of him being off his medications through no fault of his own.
“He’s got a psychiatrist that’s 300 miles away from his counselor, so the school put him on a waiting list, and they didn’t realize the urgency of his situation,” Aarons said. “It’s not that he couldn’t go it’s that he was waiting for his appointment. I hope that after he’s done with Mesilla Valley people will now realize they are dealing with something a little more serious than a homesick freshman.”
The state somewhat agreed with the theory, but Assistant District Attorney Kent Wahlquist wanted Nguyen to remain incarcerated and spend 60 days at Los Lunas Correctional Facility seeking treatment or at the Los Alamos Detention Center where he was currently being held.
“It’s the state’s position that we perform a 60-day diagnostic,” Wahlquist told the court on Tuesday. “We hold on to the defendant, have him evaluated so we can find out what issues are going on and how best to address those.”
Raphaelson sided with Aaron’s recommendation of treatment at a private facility because it was near where Nguyen is attending school, and he was just finishing his first semester of school. Aarons also made a case that
Nguyen was doing well when he was being challenged by a school setting, and this latest incident happened when that was no longer the case.
“As the judge observed, when he’s away from here and he’s in Las Cruces, he’s doing fine,” Aarons said. “But when he comes back here he pulls his stupid act that none of us can explain.”
Aarons also added that Nguyen’s probation will still include the threat of a 54-year sentence.
“The court will still have that power over him for five years of probation,” he said.
“He will get to finish his finals so his first semester isn’t a wash, then he’ll go straight to Mesilla Valley,” Aarons said.
“After that, he will probably re-enroll for his second semester, and follow whatever recommendations
Mesilla Valley makes, and they have a pretty intensive aftercare counseling program.”
Nguyen will be back before the court in three months for a final sentencing.