A former Baltimore Police officer who failed to prevent a suspect in an assault from attacking a man lying on the ground while bleeding will not have to spend time in jail, a judge ruled on Monday, changing a sentence that she handed down just days earlier in the case.
Circuit Judge Kendra Ausby last week sentenced former Officer Christopher Nguyen on a charge of reckless endangerment to serve one year, with all but 60 days suspended, plus 1 1/2 years’ probation. She ordered him to complete implicit bias and cultural sensitivity counseling.
Nguyen was supposed to turn himself in on Monday to begin serving his time but asked the court to put the sentence on hold while he appealed. He also filed a motion for reconsideration.
Ausby then changed the sentence to one year with all time suspended plus 1 1/2 years’ probation. He must still finish the implicit bias and cultural sensitivity training.
In explaining her decision, Ausby said she learned that Nguyen, 27, of Hanover, had since resigned from the Baltimore Police Department. She noted that she asked the victim’s mother “three different ways” about the fact that prosecutors were recommending incarceration.
Each time, Ausby said, the woman simply indicated that she did not want Nguyen to continue to serve as a police officer.
“I don’t see what further purpose a period of incarceration would have for this defendant,” said Ausby, who remarked that Nguyen had pretty much lost everything else. “Given everything that I’ve heard at this point, I think justice has kind of served itself,” she added.
On Aug. 12, 2020, Nguyen was dispatched to a call for two men fighting on Kolb Avenue near Belair Road in Northeast Baltimore.
When he arrived to the scene, Wayne Brown was lying face-down and bleeding. Nguyen checked on him and called for a medic.
Nguyen then spoke with the other man, Kenneth Somers, who reported that he beat up Brown. Somers alleged that Brown had stolen his car.
In body camera video, Nguyen said, “You did what you had to do to get your car back.” He also asked Somers whether he’d considered professional fighting.
Later, Somers walked up to Brown, leaned down, unleashed taunts and kicked him once in the face. Nguyen testified during a two-day bench trial that he experienced tunnel vision and would have acted differently looking back at the situation.
Somers, 41, of Dundalk, was found guilty of first-degree assault and reckless endangerment and sentenced to seven years in prison.
During the hearing, Chaz Ball, Nguyen’s attorney, requested that the judge put his client’s sentence on hold during the appeals process and modify the period of incarceration to home detention for safety reasons.
As an alternative, Ball asked the court to allow his client to serve the time in a different jurisdiction, such as Baltimore County or Howard County.
Nguyen, he said, will not be able to serve as a police officer again in Maryland or likely anywhere else. Ball said he believed that the case presents novel issues for appeal, including whether people have a duty to stop a third party from taking some action.
“I don’t know there to be any criminal cases that go to that specific issue,” Ball said.
But Assistant State’s Attorney Ernest Reitz said he did not believe that the case presented a novel issue for appeal.
Reitz said he did not have a problem with Nguyen serving his sentence in a different place but objected to the other requests.
“The state is opposed to home detention as well as the victim’s family,” Reitz said.
Nguyen joined the force in 2018. He earned a total of $71,290.23 in fiscal year 2021, according to the city’s salary database.