On Wednesday, Montgomery County Circuit Judge Mary Beth McCormick sentenced Nguyen to 25 years in prison.
“This country, this community, cannot tolerate this violence,” she said, comparing Nguyen’s crimes to the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre, the Boston Marathon bombings and a recent thwarted attack in Oregon.
“While your criminal activities were not on the same scale, the theme was the same. Your intent was to kill,” she said.
Nguyen, 17, pleaded guilty in December to attempted second-degree murder and the use of a handgun in a violent crime. Prosecutors had sought a 50-year sentence against Nguyen for his role in the brazen incident last May, which stemmed from an after-school dispute the day before and left a 16-year-old boy and a 19-year-old woman with gunshot wounds.
“This was so planned out – this wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment fight,” Assistant State’s Attorney Marybeth Ayres said in court. Nguyen shot his victim a full day after the dispute between the two boys began. Nguyen and several classmates plotted the shooting, Ayres said, showing photographs of a shaggy-haired Nguyen and his friends displaying gang signs.
Court records show that Nguyen, then a student at Richard Montgomery High School, found his victim “hanging out” on the east side of the Rockville Metro station at around 2:30 p.m. Tavares Harris, an acquaintance, gave him a gun he had been carrying in his backpack.
Nguyen approached his victim and said: “I heard you wanted to rob me,” according to court records. “Yeah, what are you going to do about it?” Nguyen’s victim responded. Nguyen fired at the victim, following him as he tried to flee the station tunnel, which was filled with as many as 60 commuters. He hit him in the leg, abdomen and groin, and he also struck a bystander.
“There could have been anyone in this room in the line of fire,” Ayres told McCormick.
In court, the second victim, a woman, told McCormick: “I went through a lot of pain. … I was an innocent bystander – I had nothing to do with the shooting.”
A friend of Nguyen’s first victim called his mother, Rowley, who arrived at the station before the ambulance. She saw “fear and desperation” in her 16-year-old son’s eyes. Today, the teen still has a bullet fragment in his right leg, she said. One bullet missed his femoral artery by millimeters, she said in court.
Once an avid athlete, her son has trouble running and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. And his mom avoids the Rockville Metro station. “I don’t want to relive seeing my son lying in that area,” she said.
Thomas M. DeGonia II, Nguyen’s attorney, said that a 50year sentence was “outrageous” and would ensure that instead of being reformed, Nguyen would leave prison a hardened criminal.
Nguyen had been manipulated by his friends, DeGonia said.
“Right there when [Nguyen] was angry, Tavares Harris was right there to put the gun in his hand,” he said.
A jury found Harris guilty of first degree assault and use of a handgun in a crime of violence in December. He is scheduled to be sentenced in June.
In court, DeGonia and Nguyen’s supporters portrayed him as a respectful boy who had made a mistake and accepted responsibility for his actions.
DeGonia said “[Nguyen] has done everything in his control to conform his behavior.”
“My son is a good kid,” said Ban Nguyen, Nguyen’s father. Apologizing to the victims and the community, he said that learning of his son’s crime had been a “shock” to his family.
Antoinette McLeod, superintendent of the Alfred D. Noyes Children’s Center, said that Nguyen had been a model inmate during his time at the facility.
Nguyen apologized when he spoke.
“I know what I did was idiotic, I wish I had handled it in a different way,” he said.
— The Gazette