Accused Probation Violator Frustrated during Self-Representation in Court

By Kianna Anvari

SACRAMENTO — While Riley Nguyen sat alone at the defense counsel table during witness testimonies, exercising his constitutional right to self-representation here Wednesday in Sacramento County Superior Court, Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Gong objected to almost every point he made.

After 364 days in county jail, Nguyen was placed on five-year probation in 2018—the terms of which he allegedly violated earlier this year when he apparently contacted three victims in violation of criminal protective orders, as well as failing to obey all laws outlined in his probation.

Gong began the hearing by calling her only witness, Detective Christopher Arbuckle with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, Centralized Investigations Unit.

Detective Arbuckle spoke to two of the victims in June after Nguyen had allegedly contacted them via Twitter in March. They both filed reports with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department due to violation of the CPOs.

Gong shared seven pieces of evidence, including an Instagram post and Twitter posts from profiles the detective deduced as Nguyen’s. Arbuckle explained that the language was consistent with Nguyen’s posts from 2017. He described Nguyen’s latest posts as “bizarre” and perceived them to be threatening.

Nguyen chose to cross-examine the witness, but those present via Zoom struggled to hear him. Although Judge Stacy Boulware Eurie asked him to speak up, he was still quiet and appeared nervous.

He asked Arbuckle to consult a document from 2017, but Gong objected based on relevance. Nguyen continued discussing the 2017 document and said he was never served with restraining orders at that time. Judge Eurie interjected to remind Nguyen that matters prior to 2018 were not relevant to this matter.

Nguyen then posed a general question on the fairness of being incarcerated for violating three restraining orders that he claimed were never served. Gong objected based on improper opinion and relevance.

The defendant continued, claiming that he was not given due process prior to his initial arrest. He paused and told the court that he was having trouble framing a question.

“Some of the trouble you are articulating about framing a question is an example of one of the risks of representing yourself,” Judge Eurie said. “By representing yourself, you are held to the same standards and familiarity with the evidence code as Ms. Gong is, as a licensed attorney.”

Judge Eurie empathized with Nguyen, but explained that she could not tell him how to ask a question.

Nguyen brought up repetitive points, to which Gong objected based on relevance. Arbuckle and Gong became visibly frustrated over the course of the cross-examination.

Judge Eurie gave Nguyen the option to testify under oath, where he argued he was an upstanding citizen.

Judge Eurie found that the terms of probation and the three criminal protective orders were violated. Gong suggested that the defendant serve three years and eight months in state prison, due to the highly threatening nature of his posts.

Nguyen dropped his head to the table. The court did not sentence him immediately because of the desire to obtain a full probation report.

Nguyen will remain in custody and is not entitled to bail. He will return for sentencing on October 13.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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