Portion of Rape Case Sent Back to Court

By
Susan Tebben - Athens Messenger staff reporter

Dateline
Updated Thu, Jul 18, 2013 4:53 am

The appeal of a New York doctor convicted of rape, kidnapping and aggravated burglary will return to Athens County Common Pleas Court in part.

The 4th District Court of Appeals partially affirmed a ruling by the common pleas court on the case of Charles Nguyen, and partially reversed the ruling, causing the case to be sent back to the Athens County court for another hearing.

Nguyen, 35, was convicted in Athens County Common Pleas Court in August of 2010 of crimes against an Athens woman that took place in May of 2009.

In May of 2009, Nguyen spent a week with the victim and her family at her home in Athens.

He left but returned unexpectedly and confronted the victim, according to trial testimony reported by The Messenger.

He raped the woman and then told her they were leaving for New York, according to court documents.

Nguyen was found guilty of binding the victim’s wrists and legs with nylon rope, raping her and then threatening to kill her young nephew.

Prior to being sentenced by Judge Michael Ward to 30 years in prison, Nguyen's former attorney Derek Farmer asked for a retrial but was denied.

The motion however was not properly journalized by the courts, so the 4th District determined the appeal was still pending and undecided, according to previous Messenger reporting.

In the July 11 ruling, the court of appeals sent the assignment of error regarding merging the offenses to avoid violating the double jeopardy clause back to common pleas for a determination.

In the trial, the court found that rape and aggravated burglary were not offenses committed by Nguyen at the same "animus," or intention.

But the appeals court stated in their ruling that it was possible the two could be allied offenses.

"The force or threat of force used to commit rape could satisfy the requirement for aggravated burglary that the offender 'inflicts, or attempts to inflict physical harm on another,'" the ruling stated.

As for the merging the charges of kidnapping and rape, the common pleas court found that Nguyen had a separate intention in each crime, and the appeals court agreed with the finding.

Merging the convictions of kidnapping and aggravated burglary was not discussed at the trial, but the appeals court said it was also possible to commit kidnapping and aggravated burglary "with the same conduct."

But Nguyen can be sentenced for both crimes if he committed the crimes separately, the appeals decision said, so the court sent the issue back as well.

The appeals court did not address defense arguments that the court "abused its discretion" by imposing maximum and consecutive sentences on Nguyen, based on the pending court proceedings to decide if the offenses would be merged.

If the common pleas court concludes that any of the offenses merge, some of the defense arguments might not apply, the appeals court ruled.

Much of the appeal depends on the assignment of a judge, according to County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn.

"If it is assigned to Judge Ward, the process will go much more quickly" because of his knowledge of the case, Blackburn said.

For any other judge it will take more time for them to go over the transcript of the case.

But Blackburn is confident in the arguments he has already made in the case.

"The arguments I made in the appeal speak for themselves," Blackburn said.

The court overruled seven other defense arguments that the court had made errors in the trial, including permitting expert testimony, failing to hold a rape shield hearing, permitting exhibit bags with testimonial statements and enlarged photographs of the victim's cervix to be used in jury deliberations and not permitting defense counsel to cross-examine the victim or a police officer.

The defense also argued that the convictions were not supported by sufficient evidence, allowing the prosecutor to use an inadmissible document during trial and excusing jurors without the presence of defense counsel or Nguyen.

 

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