Judge reduces Nguyen's bond

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Courts > Trial date not set for accused Los Alamos burglar

By Tris DeRoma

Aaron Nguyen, the burglary suspect and high school honors student accused of stealing valuables from his neighbor’s homes while they were away, apparently suffers from a combination of two mental illnesses.

The revelation came out during a conditions-for-release hearing in Los Alamos Magistrate Court Tuesday.

The mental issues were raised as Judge Pat Casados questioned Nguyen’s lawyer Steve Aarons about whether Nguyen should be allowed to take three extended trips this summer with his family.

One trip is to see his brother graduate from the University of California Santa Cruz, the other is to attend a student orientation at the same university and the last trip involves a July vacation to Cancun, Mexico, to attend a family reunion.

Nguyen is currently free on a $69,000 bond.

Deputy District Attorney Juan Valencia was concerned that Nguyen would have access to drugs and alcohol, especially during the July vacation to Mexico.

Aarons replied to Casados that drugs and alcohol were never the cause of Nguyen’s crime spree, but that Nguyen was battling mental illness at the time he allegedly committed the crimes.

“Since that time he’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder),” Aarons said. “Since he’s been placed on medication, his parents have said they’ve gotten the old Aaron back, he’s now the polite young man they’ve always known.”

Still, Casados wasn’t convinced, directly asking the parents, who were with Nguyen in court, if they’ve been thoroughly searching his room and keeping an eye on him.

At the time of his arrest, police said Nguyen stashed the stolen goods in his room, items that included pistols, rifles, swords, jewelry, computers and audio equipment.

“Yes, we have cleaned his room and have actually kept it much more organized than before,” Nguyen’s father, Dinh Nguyen told the judge.

Casados also had questions about the planned trips, especially the vacation in Mexico. At one point during the proceedings, she asked Nguyen if he knew exactly what was being asked of the court.

“We’re letting you go to have a good time on vacation. You understand how that looks,” she asked. “...I’m not going to get to take a vacation, because I have a job. You understand what I’m saying?”

She also reminded Nguyen that he is still facing charges, which include burglary, aggravated burglary, and larceny of a firearm and possession of burglary tools.

“I think it’s good that you’re attending your brother’s graduation and your student orientation but, this may put a crimp in your orientation too,” Casados told Nguyen. “This is all not going to get finished before you think you’re going to school.”

In a police report on Nguyen’s arrest, police said Nguyen just simply tried the door. If it was locked, he’d move on to a door that wasn’t. Nguyen allegedly hit six of his neighbor’s houses before he was caught.

In the end, Casados agreed to GPS monitoring and also reduced Nguyen’s $69,000 bond to $25,000, of which the Nguyen’s have to pay 10 percent for Nguyen to remain free while he awaits trial.

Though a trial date has not been set yet, Aarons is hoping the courts will be merciful, in light of the circumstances. Aarons also said however that Nguyen has a hard road ahead.

“His condition does not affect his ability to know right from wrong,” Aarons said. “He definitely did something wrong. This is the kind of case where we hope he gets put on some type of probation and the charges are dismissed after he satisfies his term of probation.”

He said one option might be he gets a conditional discharge. “He admits his guilt and the judge holds off so he doesn’t have a criminal record for the rest of his life,” Aarons said. “But you have to earn that by doing well. For him, that would be staying out of trouble, going to college, maybe some community service. That’s the kind of direction this case may take.”