The Case Of Dawn Nguyen

So here in Rochester we just completed one of the most high profile trials of the last year or so, involving the prosecution of a woman who now stands adjudged guilty by a jury of having ‘falsified business records’.

Ordinarily, of course, falsifying business records charges don’t generate a lot of copy, but this particular business record was a form filled out when buying guns that were later used to kill two firefighters and wound two others in a particularly depraved act on Christmas Eve 2012.  The killer shot the first responders when they came to help, there having been a fire no doubt started intentionally by the killer himself.  Who had just killed his sister.

He had been released from prison years before.  He was in prison because he had killed his grandmother.

I’m not making any of this up.

The basis of the case against Dawn Nguyen is that she had stated on the business record that she was the purchaser of the guns, when in fact the guns were intended for the killer, named William Spengler.  The puchase of the guns occurred, apparently, in June 2010.

That’s two and a half years before Spengler went on his perverse Christmas killing spree.

Let’s assume she’s guilty as charged on the business record thing, just like the jury said.  What’s really animating the prosecution, what made it “high profile”, is not what Nguyen did; it’s what Spengler did.  To drive the point home, Nguyen’s trial was very well attended by fire fighters from the relevant department and cops from the relevant village police department.  Indeed after the guilty verdict the firefighters and police chief were breathlessly interviewed by local media for their opinions, which were uniformly that they had been extremely interested or involved in the prosecution of Nguyen, that they were ‘gratified’ by the verdict as far as it went, that they were upset that the 1-1/3 to 4 year maximum sentence was woefully insufficient punishment, and that they looked forward to a federal prosecution arising from the very same facts and circumstances that would entail as much as 30 years in prison.

And then they would set about the business of changing the state law to provide for more severe penalties for doing what Dawn Nguyen had done.  One of the wounded firefighters commented that as far as he was concerned, Dawn Nguyen was a conspirator in the murder of his comrades.

Now.  A few more observations.

Ms. Nguyen’s lawyer, Matt Parrinello, did a fine job and knows a lot more details than I do.  It’s a very tough thing to do:  stand up and defend someone when the most important possible constituency – law enforcement and their fellow travelers in the fire/EMT communities – is out for blood very publicly.  Matt is my hero today.  Let’s be clear about that.

Second, this was as clear cut a case as you could ever have of what might be called a substitute criminal prosecution.  The guy everyone would really like to see hanged is dead, having killed himself.  Good riddance, but it does leave law enforcement bereft of that particular remedy.  Not to be left unsatisfied, they go looking for an alternate target, and lo they find one:  a twenty something Vietnamese heritage (maybe an immigrant but I don’t have that information) woman.  The fury they would like to unleash on the deceased miscreant they unleash on her instead.  Its searing intensity is wildly, insanely disproportionate to the wrong alleged, but that’s one of those things you mention at your peril, from a community point of view.* 

I don’t know how you could get a much more attenuated moral fault than filling out – or maybe just signing – a form some two and one-half years before a crime you had no involvement with took place.  I mean, this is one of the problems here.  Spengler’s sister must have known that he illegally possessed weapons.  He lived with her, each and every day of that two and one-half years.  She bears much more responsibility for what her brother did than Dawn Nguyen.  But of course Spengler’s sister is dead, too – Spengler killed her.

Beyond Spengler’s sister, how many neighbors knew Spengler had those guns but never reported it?  According to the village police chief, Spengler was a braggart about the neighborhood, in addition to all his other sterling qualities.  That’s one of the reasons the police chief figures Dawn Nguyen must have known all about what a bad guy and felon he was. 

Of course the problem with that is, lots of other people must have known, too.  Figure out something they did or didn’t do that violates some law or other within, say, merely one year as opposed to two and a half, and maybe you’ve got yourself a better case than the one against Nguyen.  File into the courtroom every day of their trial and glare at the jury until they convict, as by now almost any jury in the United States has been conditioned to do through decades of relentless law enforcement propaganda.

What’s to stop you from doing that, from roping in many, many other people to pay for Spengler’s crime?  Why, nothing.

 A third observation:  Dawn Nguyen is an attractive female.  The jury dynamics for attractive female criminal defendants are atrocious.  There’s almost no way to win:  other women hate her; men, of course, side with law enforcement.

Fourth:  that attractive female defendant thing also seems to generate a fevered intensity all by itself, to say nothing of combining it with a homicide.  Throw in the victims are law enforcement, or at least quasi law enforcement.  Throw in that it was Christmas.  Ugh.

Fifth:  Will anyone – other than me and her lawyer, that is – venture to state the obvious, that at this point a federal prosecution is overkill?  Will the local media give any air whatsoever to this, or is it a thought crime?

Sixth:  Dungeons, racks, screws, stockades, the pillory.  When someone is facing 30 years over lying on a form, these medieval tortures begin to look comparatively humane.  Something is seriously wrong when that happens.

But we already knew that, didn’t we?  Why do you think this blog and others like it even exist?


*  Note, that is an obviously correct observation, and that makes it all the worse.  There’s no answer for it, so it interferes with the desire to wallow in simmering hatreds and desires for revenge.  Woe unto the cooler head pointing out such an obvious moral consideration in the midst of a collective frenzy.


Filed under Media incompetence/bias, Uncategorized

75 responses to “The Case Of Dawn Nguyen

  1. Wait, what? Are you actually trying to defend what she did? This girl goes out and buys firearms for a felon, and she is by no means a “stupid” girl, and not just any felon but someone who was did time for murdering his grandmother with a hammer. Knowing full well that he was going to eventually kill his sister, that came out in text messages. And you have the audacity to blame it on the fact that she is a pretty girl, and people just wanted someone to be blamed? No, it is because of this woman that many a gun owner must now register certain firearms and soon have to do background checks to buy ammunition.
    I can agree that the only reason the was so publicized is because firemen were killed, but that is the only point I will agree on. As a matter of fact, the fact that the only reason she was probably charged was for that reason alone. But, that right there shows how the laws are flawed. Anyone that purchases firearms for a felon should be charged like this woman was. The fluke is not that she was found guilty, the fluke is that there are not more convictions like this. If this state actually enforced laws already on the books and people really got the idea that hey, maybe they should not do that then it would not be in the condition it is in.
    She is going to be used to be made an example of and that may or may not be unfortunate. She has obviously shown by her actions that she does not really care about the laws that are set in place or what the outcome of her actions are going to be. Personally I hope they go after her for being an accessory to murder or involuntary manslaughter. It is directly because of disregard for the laws that those people are dead. Even her mother told her not to buy the guns that is was probably a set up. So do not try to blame other people that may or may not have know that he had those weapons. They should have reported him. If it was not for her he would not have had them.


    • Bert Torres

      Everyone is forgetting one special point….. HOW IS A MAN RELEASED FROM PRISON AFTER KILLING HIS GRANDMOTHER WITH A HAMMER?… clearly the court system is destroyed, after committing a crime as heinous as that, there is no such thing as “Rehabilitated” or “a changed man” or whatever “PoppyCock” terminology that was used in his release hearing by whatever attorney that this “Spengler” character had. That is all, thank you. God bless. Goodnight


    • First, I am not defending what she did, which is lying on a document, if indeed she did that. In all events be truthful, I figure.

      I don’t know that she is, or isn’t, a stupid girl. I don’t know her at all. It’s entirely possible that she knew what she was doing and it’s entirely possible that she didn’t. The jury resolved that question against her. But juries can make mistakes. We live with what they decide either way, for the most part. That’s both the hope and the terror of it.

      I imagine if there were any basis to go after her as an accessory that would have been done.

      One point I was making was if you’re going to cast a net that far you could catch an army of fish, not just her. Two guys, no doubt very good guys working in a helping profession on Christmas eve were killed, and it was awful. But she didn’t kill them, and no one has even alleged that. How do you distinguish her involvement, on a moral level, from dozens of others that might have known over a period of more than two years? Did you know that under federal law it’s a felony not to report a federal felony? See 18 U.S.C. 4 Why not round up every neighbor and prosecute all of them?

      The criminal law focuses on the intent of the accused and it can make all the difference in the world. People are killed in a car crash, always gut wrenching and tragic no matter what. But the other driver, depending on his intent, can be guilty of nothing criminal or all the way up to murder by some reckonings. We don’t measure the crime just by the harm done. Great harm can occur with no one being guilty of any crime.

      If you want to define blame so broadly, well, there’s a lot of it to go around here. It isn’t just her. That bothers me. It should bother you.

      I also wonder whether these high profile trials don’t just make matters worse for everyone, including families and friends of the victims.


      • There is physical proof that she falsified the document, the video tape from Gander Mountain, and the actual document. Not to mention the fact that she told a jail guard card play friend that she bought them for her. But even taking the guard out of the situation after hearing that he was sleeping with everyone including her and she turned him in to his wife there is still the video which had Spengler in it, and the actual document.
        Her Mother busted her on if she knew what she was doing was wrong, she did that when she called a local radio station and said, the she (the Mother) would not buy the weapons for him because she did not want a paper trail and that she told Dawn not to do it because it was probably a set up. You have that combined with the fact that there were text messages where Dawn said Spengler paid her to purchase the weapon for him.
        There is no actual physical proof of who did or did not know that this man owned these weapons. That would all for the most part be hearsay and you know that does not hold up in court all that well. Now, if they did have actual proof that people knew about these weapons and that he was a felon then yes, round them all up and try them also.
        I have not judge this crime at all based on who was harmed. I don’t know any of the people that were harmed or even their that day. What I do know is people all over the place are disregarding laws that are there for a reason. And it is about time they started getting caught and paying the price for doing so. If she did not buy those weapons for that man then this may as very well not happened. He may have found someone else to buy for him, their are a lot of ignorant people out t here, but, we will never know that. So, I still put a fair amount of blame on her.
        I think if there are going to be any other charges brought up on her they were waiting for the outcome of this trail. But, that is just me.


        • Mark Foti

          Sadly, Amy, you serve as the perfect example of the dangers of mob mentality, which is what the original blog entry was about.

          You stated that there was a video tape from Gander Mountain. There was not. And to be completely clear, I am not simply stating that a video was not produced at trial. I am stating that there is no video. It does not exist.

          You stated that Dawn told a jail guard card play friend that she bought them for her (sic). She did not. One of the news agencies reported something along those lines, but it was later retracted. The deputy did ask via text if she bought the guns for him, and she said “no.” That was the only testimony on that issue.

          You stated there were text messages where Dawn said Spengler paid her to purchase the weapon for him. There were not. There was not a single text message making that statement.

          The examples you provided of evidence that proves her guilt do not exist. I am not trying to give you a hard time about it. I don’t think that you made any of it up. I think you heard it somewhere, and you felt you could trust the source, but unfortunately, a couple of people may read your post, and assume that your information is accurate, and they may go and repeat it, so that a few more people can spread this false information. It’s a dangerous snowball effect. Suddenly, people are advocating for her to be charged with accessory to murder, and they don’t even really know what the case is about…


        • Apparently you know a lot about the evidence at the trial. I don’t.

          What I think I know, and this comes only from news accounts, is that sure she signed a form and bought the guns and they were for him, not her. Whether she had any intention of defrauding or even doing anything at all wrong at the time she signed the form was, I understand, the issue.

          I then understand that some former friends gave testimony to the effect that prior to the time she signed the form she knew Spengler was a felon, although I don’t know whether they testified that she also knew that it was illegal for a felon to possess a firearm. It could be that even if she knew the former but not the latter she wouldn’t be guilty of what she was charged with, but actually I’m not sure.

          In any event, and notably, as far as I know all the evidence about what she knew or understood first surfaces after the events of Christmas eve, 2012. That is, after the potential significance of any such information would be known by anyone who might be inclined to provide such information. Which makes all such “information” suspect unless it’s corroborated by something more contemporaneous with the relevant event, the relevant event being the signing of the form in 2010, not the horrible events of Christmas eve 2012.

          Now, absent some reliable evidence of culpable intent at the time of the gun purchase – and based on what I just went over, from what I know there was no reliable evidence of such culpable intent – the natural interpretation of the remaining facts would be that this much older scumbag of a man duped a young woman into getting him some guns, much as he duped firefighters from Webster to rush into his ambush, and maybe duped his sister into letting him live with her when he probably intended to kill her all along, and probably duped many other people that he was in a position to dupe. Just seems like that’s the kind of man he was.

          And on this interpretation of the facts, Dawn Nguyen is just another of Spengler’s victims, the only difference being that in her case the law enforcement community and other officials have essentially helped Spengler victimize her, ironic considering who his main intended victims were.

          So if Dawn Nguyen really had no culpable intent – the jury found otherwise, but for purposes of responding to your comment we’re entertaining the idea that that was a wrong call – then her conviction would be not only unjust but perverse: a posthumous bonus to the real villain of the story, courtesy of the very law enforcement establishment that villain victimized, and at the expense of one of his other victims.

          I wonder if commenter Bert isn’t right that the real problem is that this man should never have been out of prison at all, and wonder why no one has focused on the parole board decision, or plea bargaining or charging decision that made it possible for that to happen. I am certainly personally aware of people in prison who are never let out despite crimes nowhere near as shocking as killing your elderly grandmother with a hammer.


        • SLC_65

          So Amy,

          What would you say should be the punishment for Eric Holder allowing millions of illegal weapons fall into the hands of drug cartel criminals in Mexico? Many that have made their way back into the US to murder innocent citizens, as well as law enforcement personnel? For that matter, why aren’t bartenders, liquor store owners & makers of alcohol put on trial every time a drunk driver kills someone? How about tobacco companies and their sales outlets, every time another person is murdered by cancer, heart disease, etc? How far do we go to get our pound of flesh for every awful thing perpetrated by evil people, facilitated by others? Because everyone in this country is guilty of facilitating evil every time you buy something that was made in a sweatshop, or use a product that was made from deforestation, wears a diamond, or gem that was mined by a slave, or a phone made by people who aren’t even able to afford one themselves, let alone feed their families. And I haven’t even mentioned the 16 million American children that go to bed hungry every night that no one is held accountable for. Is that not a truly evil crime that every American that turns a blind eye to it, should pay for?

          The point is, Ms. Nguyen didn’t pull the trigger and she also wasn’t the only one, I’m sure, that facilitated Spengler getting weapons. It just happened to be the ones she purchased for him that he used to carry out such an evil act. So, she becomes the focus of a country’s outrage at being victimized by violence at every turn. How could she know he would kill someone? Even if he said he wanted to. How many times have you heard someone, in anger, say, “I could kill him/her!”? Do you take them seriously? Should she be punished? Yes. She broke the law, as it stands. Whether it’s a constitutional law is for another debate. Should she spend 30+ years behind bars for being a typical young adult, obsessed with today and no thought of the future ramifications of any actions taken in the present? What if it was your sister, or child? Would you feel the same way.
          And, the reason we have to register weapons and someday may go the way of Great Britain isn’t because of people like her, or even the people who commit the crimes. It’s because we’ve become okay with letting the government and the media do our thinking for us.


          • Eric Holder should be fully held accountable for every weapon that was sold if he knew about and so should everyone else in the government that knew about it. That is dirty business right there. Bartenders should also be held accountable for serving liquor to people that visibly intoxicated, for that matter there should be breathalyzer at every bar around here to make sure people are not driving around drunk and if I am correct, it used to be in NYS that if you did serve someone who was obviously drunk you could be held accountable if they went out and killed someone while driving after being at you establishment. At least it was when I was a bartender. As for smoking, that is a personal choice, you can not go after a company because it sells a product that you knew full well may or may not cause you to get cancer, Any more than you can go after McDonalds because you are fat. As for sweat shops and slaves….. If you live in a country where slavery is still acceptable then so be it. If the USA was so against it then those items should not be allowed to be sold here. And starving children, that is for CPS to handle, and if neglect is found then yes the parents of those children are held accountable.
            The average person that associates with the murdering type, I would like to think, if they heard said murder say I am going to kill someone would in fact take that statement very serious. I am not even sure why he even got out of prison to begin with. He killed his grandmother with a hammer for crying out loud. And if you keep your nose clean in prison you get out early. That is nonsense all on it’s own right there. I don’t even know why we do not have the death penalty anymore. Why even keep these people alive? Not like they are contributing anything at all to society. No, she did not pull the trigger but she made it possible for him to pull the trigger. And she was found guilty and that is that. Right now she faces a maximum of 4 years. If it was my sibling or my child, yes, I would feel the same way. I can tell you right now, when I went and bought my shotgun and I saw the is this purchase for yourself the first thing I asked was what does that even matter. They gave me the answer and I found that answer to be acceptable…


          • kent kroemer

            Great Post SLC_65. Most people do not know the facts of this case and if they did people like Amy wouldn’t be making incorrect statements or come to inane conclusions. I will be very surprised if the conviction is upheld on appeal.



              Let me save you the reading….
              The evidence against Nguyen is the federal firearms document she filled out at Gander Mountain, her interviews with investigators, and testimony from former friends and others who allege that she admitted the guns were bought for Spengler.

              One of those friends, Florida resident Nichole Stringer, said Nguyen told her in 2010 that she bought the guns for Spengler. Earlier that year, Stringer said in a telephone interview, Nguyen mentioned that her neighbor Spengler had been imprisoned for the killing of his grandmother.

              Stringer said she was shocked when Nguyen said she was buying guns for Spengler.

              “He’s a convicted felon, a murderer,” Stringer said.

              Another witness is expected to be Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Vincent Petralis, who played poker with Nguyen. Nguyen allegedly contacted him on Christmas Eve 2012 after learning that Spengler had killed the two firefighters.

              Petralis testified at a pretrial hearing that he received a text from Nguyen’s phone, saying, “yes, I was the one who I believe purchased the weapons that he used to kill those people.”

              Court papers allege that in a Dec. 24, 2012, interview with State Police Investigator Thomas Crowley, Nguyen said that Spengler chose the weapons she bought at Gander Mountain.

              “Nguyen stated she purchased the firearms for personal protection and that they had since been stolen from her vehicle,” court papers allege. “The firearms, however, were never reported as stolen.”


              Nichole Stringer’s testimony is key because the prosecution can use it to prove Nguyen knew she bought guns for a felon.

              Stringer says Nguyen told her that her neighbor “Billy” was a felon, convicted of beating his grandmother to death.

              Billy is what Nguyen called William Spengler.

              Stringer says Nguyen was supposed to take her daughter shopping in 2010, but showed up late. She says that’s when Nguyen told her she bought guns for “Billy” and he paid her $1000.

              Stringer says she responded saying, “Are you crazy? Did you have to sign papers?” Stringer testified she also told Nguyen, “if something happens it’s going to come back on you.”

              Right there are 2 media sources that reported what I had said, I could go and find more but that is a bit tedious. So as for my incorrect statements and inane conclusions…. Well I am sure you know what to do with that comment……


              • So Nichole Stringer knew Spengler was a felon and that he was in possession of firearms? Why didn’t she report it then? Shouldn’t they be prosecuting her, too?

                See the problem?


              • Mark Foti

                Nichole Stringer was so incredible at trial, that the prosecutor’s summation almost came out and conceded that fact. She lied in the grand jury, while under oath, about things as simple as how many children she had. When asked about whether she worked at a massage parlor where she had been arrested for prostitution, she denied it, while under oath, only admitting to it later in the cross examination, and having it corroborated by another witness. She demonstrated her anger over the fact that Dawn is now dating her ex-boyfriend… and she admitted that she did not talk to the police until March of 2013 after she had found out in February that Dawn and her ex-boyfriend had begun to see each other. At this point, she had seen the news and knew exactly what the charges were and what they needed her to testify to… And those details are the only things she could remember.

                The media paid very little attention to the fact that, later, after she testified in the Grand Jury, she decided that she did not want to come back from Florida to testify in November… so the prosecution had her arrested in Florida. They had her shipped up to Rochester, placed in jail in Rochester, and brought out before a Judge and strapped with an ankle bracelet.

                She testified in March when she was fuming over Dawn and her ex-boyfriend starting a relationship. Then, after she cooled off, she didn’t want to testify anymore, but she found out that if she didn’t, she would be put in jail. If she changed her testimony, she could be subjected to perjury charges… so she had to say what she said, even if she no longer carried the grudge that she did a year ago. (Though, her demeanor when asked about Dawn’s relationship with her ex-boyfriend would suggest that she does still carry a grudge.)

                As far as the text messages where Dawn states that she was the one who purchased the weapons that were used by William Spengler, nobody seems to notice that she made that statement after the police came and spoke with her and informed her of that fact. Of all of the messages that were reviewed and analyzed from that morning, not one message made any reference to the guns. Then, after the police show up and admittedly informed her that the guns she had purchased were used by Spengler, she sends a text repeating that information. And the mob goes wild, pointing to it as if its an admission.

                Now, Amy, let’s not forget that you suggested that there was a video from Gander Mountain, text messages from Dawn where she said Spengler paid her to purchase the weapon for him, and an admission to jail guard card play friend that she bought them for [him]. If you heard those things in the local media or on some radio show, and you find out that they are false, shouldn’t you be suspicious of everything you heard about this case?

                There have been many cases, where the evidence was far more credible, abundant, and strait forward than this case, and the fact finder acquitted. There have also been many cases where the evidence was far more credible, abundant, and strait forward than this case, and the fact finder convicted; some of those cases have ended up on this list:


              • Mark, thanks for the comment and important insights. And forgive me if I get any details wrong. I didn’t attend the trial so I’m just going by media reports, which is always dangerous. I assumed there was no dispute about Dawn having bought the guns for Spengler, for example. From what you are saying it’s a big issue.

                I’ve always liked Tim Prosperi and believed him to be a fair guy, so I’m disappointed at the witness intimidation you’ve chronicled here. And let’s not mince words, what you described is flagrant witness intimidation, which would be abundantly clear if a defense team ever did anything even remotely similar. Maybe it’s just me, but I think prosecutors not only have an obligation to refrain from tactics like that; they have an affirmative obligation to drop charges if a witness that is necessary to establish a critical fact proves to be unreliable. A prosecutor should be objectively satisfied that his witnesses are being truthful, and not just apply pressure until they say what he needs them to say.

                I mean, I don’t know if Tim signed off on all that or knew about it, but it sounds pretty bad to me. Sort of the equivalent of jail house snitch testimony. Ugh.


    • Well stated Amy……Dawn knew what she was doing was illegal and did not care….I understand that she did not pull the trigger and that she bought the guns 2 years prior, but the fact remains that she put those guns in a felons hands…..her text message “”Just saw (expletive) in Webster. Was it that crazy dude you guys always talk about?”Nguyen:”Yup, LOL.” shows she had no remorse…..
      She initially said that the guns were stolen …yet she never reported them stolen….Dawn broke the law which led to enabling Spengler to carry out his ambush….if she had not broken the law then she would not be tied to this ambush, but fact is she did break the law…..all she cared about was making a quick buck…well that quick buck has resulted in a ruined life for her and I for one do not feel sorry for her or her family!


    • kent kroemer

      I am a convicted felon (drug charges from 1988). I can get a gun tmrw if I want.. not hard to get a gun so please be so naive as to think Spengler wouldn’t have gotten guns from somewhere else in the 931 day wait between Nguyen’s actions and Spengler’s action. No disrespect, but that just plain stupid.


      • stacie

        Btw…no disrespect but you are just plain stupid…


        • kent kroemer

          lol. Stacie, please learn the facts of the case before you make a statement about it. Don’t rely on the media, but instead rely on the transcripts. To give you an idea of how credible Stringer was at trial, she couldn’t even tell the truth when testifying about whether or not she was facebook messaging about the case during the trial, saying she had not done so over lunch break. However, she was even lying about that. How do I know?: I am the person she was facebook messaging about the case and I was taking screen shots of the messages and sending them to defense team. I was also the person that notified defense team that Stringer had more kids than she stated during her grand jury testimony. I was almost called to testify for the defense in this case because I know Nichole Stringer and she is not a credible person. (Google my name and you will see I spent a lot of time in prison. I personlly knew people like Kharey Wise [of the Central Park Five) and Steve Barnes [who spent almost 20 years in prison], individuals who were railroaded by mob mentality and eventually exonereated after spening countless years behind bars). Again, no disrespect, but yours and Amy’s ideas on this case are just plain… stup….um … naive. 🙂


      • I never said that spengler would not have reached his goal of gun ownership, what I said that this Dawn person did the crime of purchasing them for him. Therefore she is guilty of this crime. And never begin a sentence with no disrespect 9 time out of 10 that is exactly what is intended.


    • MaryAnn

      According to Spengler’s suicide note, the mother duped her daughter into buying them…perhaps Nguyen thought she was buying them for her mother. No one but those involved actually know what went on and the mothers not talking. But Nguyen can’t be charged as an accessory as she’s not responsible for what Spengler chose to do…2 1/2 years later. Spengler chose to kill…and he killed his sister with a gun that he didn’t get from Nguyen.


  2. kent kroemer

    *don’t be so naive

    Liked by 1 person

  3. stacie

    Obviously you failed to read that I said had Dawn not broken the law she would not be involved in this ambush…in other words….the ambush probably would have happened so someone else would be on trial….so Kent ..I am not naive….very realistic and no sympathy for the piece of crap Dawn or any law breaking POS that does not learn from mistakes!!!!


    • kent kroemer

      Learn from her mistakes? What prior mistakes? She is a first-time felon for Pete’s sake! She is convicted of a non-violent E-Felony with no reliable proof she is guilty. Even if truly guilty, how will one justify the judge sentencing a first-time, non-violent felon w/an E-felony to the maximim term of 4 years in prison (where no parole board will release her at her minimum term of 1 1/3 despite good behavior, and where temporary release committee will allow her to go to work/education release after 6 months like other non-violent, E-felony convicts)? … and believe you me, the judge is going to sentence her to the maximum term. No first-time felon with a non-violent, E felony gets that kind of time, but because of mob mentality in making her a substitute defendant for William Spengler, the judge will show cowardice and will serve as Dawn’s Pontious Pilate. Disgusting! Absolutely disgusting!


      • That’s an important point. No way any first time, non-violent E felony gets anything but probation. Well, very unusual, anyway.


        • PHIL HUGHES

          i was convicted of a class e felony,yrs ago after many petty larcenies and got probation,remember NEW YORK STATE PAROLE BOARD,has those firefighters blood on their hands, NOT DAWN


    • MaryAnn

      Stacie, how does it feel to be the only perfect person out there? Oh wait…you’re judgmental, so you’re not perfect. To call someone you don’t know names and assume things you have no way of knowing, shows more about you than anything, and not in a good way IMO.


  4. Amber Welsher

    Please sign this petition for Dawn Nguyen!


  5. Mark

    I am a firefighter and EMT. I was present at the memorials and funeral rites of the West Webster heroes. The petitioner says that Convict Nguyen was a good person, and offers hearsay proof. Well, my brothers,Chiapperini and Kaczowka, were good men. That is not hearsay; it is demonstrated fact. If I were to give you the keys to my car, knowing you were intoxicated, and you mowed someone down in the street, I’d been accountable. So should be this convict. That said, I echo the comment offered by an earlier responder. Stop by your local fire station with your petition, and see what my brethren there think. I must say, you are very lucky there is a distance of several hours between us because you would be VERY MUCH ill-advised to bring your petition to MY door or MY station…


    • Mark – I corrected your original ‘met’ to EMT as you indicated, and deleted the correction comment you made.

      A couple of other things.

      First, I would ordinarily delete your comment because it contains an at least implied threat to whomever it is you are addressing. But I understand emotions have been running very high on this episode and I’m going to tolerate it, just this once.

      Second, I don’t doubt that Chiapperini and Kaczowka were very good men. Kaczowka was buried out of St. Stanislaus, my favorite church around here. I’ve done some firefighting myself (US Navy), so I appreciate the the difficulty and hazardous nature of the job, and the bravery of those who do it. It is an especially cruel and treacherous act to attack such men, in the midst of their mission of mercy. And on Christmas.

      The only point I and a few (very few, it seems) others have been making is that the guilty party is a man named Spengler and he’s dead. For pointing that out, by the way, we risk incurring the wrath of the police/firefighter/EMT community, as shown by your comment.

      There are different types of courage. Matt Parrinello has courage, too. It takes all kinds.

      Your understanding of the law of hearsay is not good, if that matters much, which it probably doesn’t. Your understanding of when the law might find someone secondarily liable for the act of another – vicariously, contributorily, accessorily – is worse. I can’t see how Dawn Nguyen could even be found liable in a civil case, let alone a criminal one, for what Spengler did. Emotionally the idea appeals to you here, but reverse positions in another case – say, when some cop is proven several times to be trigger happy but the chief keeps sending him out armed and then one day he kills someone, and then himself, and everyone calls for the chief’s head – and you and all your comrades would change your tune right quick.

      Can you appreciate the problem?

      I don’t think anyone who knows me would call me callous, but my patience is wearing a little thin on this one. The entirely emotional – and entirely irrational – desire to heap scorn and lifelong punishment upon an almost arbitrarily selected target is immature and self-indulgent. Is Dawn Nguyen somewhere in the chain of causation leading to your friends’ deaths? Yes. So is Spengler’s mother. And his sister. And anyone who, in a period of about two and one-half years, had the least inkling of the weapons Spengler had, or what he might do.

      And speaking of the chain of causation, don’t forget that by granting him parole a board of officials employed by the State were certifying that Spengler was highly unlikely to do what he ultimately wound up doing. And such officials are not known to be overly inclined to reach that kind of decision. Why aren’t they in your cross-hairs? State officials get a pass, but 20 year old girls don’t?

      And factor this in: if Spengler could dupe the parole board, and dupe his sister into letting him live with her when he probably had it in mind the whole time to kill her, and dupe the West Webster firefighters into an ambush, and dupe who knows how many other people into how many other things, how difficult would it be for him to gain the trust of a 20 year old next door neighbor, without her having any idea what he was really up to? Not that I’m saying she was necessarily even duped into doing any specific thing. I’m not her lawyer and I’ve never met her and I don’t know.

      What I do know, and what I would ask you to come to grips with, is how ludicrously unfair you and a lot of your comrades have been to focus all this venom on Dawn Nguyen. She doesn’t even remotely deserve it. Not even remotely, and you have no valid or even sensible argument that she does. In your mind she’s a proxy for Spengler, but you’re not reasoning your way there – you’re “emoting” your way there. You can emote as you please, but when you and your comrades pressure others to turn your emotions into tangible harm to someone else that is very, very wrong. Maybe you think Chiapperini and Kaczowka would approve. But like I said, I’m sure they were good guys, so I doubt it.

      I know it’s not easy to let go of all that rage, but you came over here and commented and that’s what I’m asking of you. It’s not easy for me to state a contrarian opinion under these circumstances either, but someone has to say something. This has gotten out of hand.

      I’m not optimistic you’ll really listen – or more importantly think – but then again maybe you’ll surprise me. I’m certainly not clarivoyant.


    • Mark, I personally knew Chiapperini, as I grew up in Webster, I have never had a bad experience with him. I also grew up with Hofstetter’s brother and have played on his kickball league. Nobody has said anything bad about any of these men, and we are just as sad at the situation as everyone else. Anger and hatred solve nothing, and won’t allow anyone to heal and get past this situation. My sister going to prison will not solve anything either. What do you fear will happen if she doesn’t? People who cannot function in society are who belong in prison, not people that you hold a personal grudge against. I am sorry that you are upset, and I wish there was someway for me to take your anger away, but fortunately that is only something only you can do. Thank you for your comment.


  6. Franklin

    The third observation of the author reads:

    “Dawn Nguyen is an attractive female. The jury dynamics for attractive female criminal defendants are atrocious. There’s almost no way to win: other women hate her; men, of course, side with law enforcement.”

    This statement appears to be a subjective physical assessment of Nguyen followed by unsound critical deductions regarding jury dynamics.

    Women hate her? What women? All women or just the women in the jury box? Just the attractive ones? How bout the ones who are attractive but don’t see themselves as such. Or the opposite? Lesbian women? Women of ethnic minority in the United States. Vietnamese women?

    Which by the way… did you inject her ethnic background in the article because you believe there is a correlation between the ethnic background of Nguyen and the decision of the jury as well?

    And the men? I am not aware of the authors gender, but it appears that there are male generated comments that do not lead me to the conclusion that “Men, of course, side with law enforcement.” I do not subscribe to the contention that if the aforementioned or any other males were to find themselves in the jury box that they would simply side with law enforcement in disregard of facts or evidence presented any particular case.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but does not legal counsel have some input as to the peers selected as jurors in any given case?

    I would simply like to give the jurors and those who may be called to serve jury duty, in other words, most of us, a little more credit than it appears the author of this article has or does.

    Please excuse any typos as it is Sunday morning and I am only on my first cup of coffee.


    • Franklin, in one sense you are, of course, entirely correct. Sometimes to get an idea across in the first instance you paint with a very broad brush.

      Dissertations could be written about the nuances of jury selection, though. The subject is well beyond anything I am doing here as far as going into that in any detail. But as far as it goes your point is well taken.


  7. There is a lot of emotion on all sides to this case, and the most emotional players betray that by berating the arguments, if not the intelligence, of their opponents. All of the emotional points are valid; in the context in which they are offered: a sister doesn’t want her sister in jail, a first responder doesn’t want his compatriots murdered, a felon who suffered at the hands of the criminal system finds corruption and injustice is all aspects of it, a blogger paints a picture of runaway mob justice due to the obviously inflamed passions of those horrified by the crime. All very compelling – and all are unwilling to stipulate the most basic facts of the case – which makes it easy to disregard and dismember contrasting opinions. However, there are two facts that no one can deny: 1) Dawn was found guilty of signing for the guns that Spengler had possession of and could not buy on his own, and 2) the ultimate outcome of Spengler having possession of the guns is that two people were killed and two others injured.
    If we look at a legal analogy, driving under the influence, we might be able to gain some perspective on the law and the principle of justice underlying it. If a young person with no criminal record drives under the influence, he or she can be arrested, given probation and fined; no jail time, no felony conviction and all that entails. However, if while driving under the influence, that same person, due to unfortunate road conditions or inability to react to a sudden danger, injures or even kills other people, the consequences are much more severe – up to life in prison. Same action. Vastly different consequences. If Dawn’s actions resulted in no one being harmed, she is unlikely to have ever been arrested, much less to face jail time. Everyone wishes that had been the case, just as everyone wishes a benign outcome for every DUI driver. Unfortunately, fate dealt all involved a much harsher hand. No one wanted to pay that price, not Spengler’s sister, the first responders, Dawn, or any of their families. There is an illusion that Dawn can escape her share of the horror because her consequences come as the result of a slow-moving and deliberate judicial system, not from a bullet raining down from the sky. But it is just that – an illusion. When those shots rang out, her perhaps naïve, and under different circumstances, harmless actions had a devastating consequence. She can no more escape that consequence than could the first responders or their families. Nor should she.


    • I appreciate the effort to bring calm. That said, you’re making a false equivalence regarding who’s being “emotional”. I have no dog in the fight and don’t represent anyone, although I do have a larger concern about the proper functioning of the justice system as one of its officers. But that, of course, is not legitimately regarded as an “emotional” concern.

      In any case, moving on.

      Your analogy to the “young person” driving while under the influence is not inapplicable, but it’s also too easily distinguishable to carry any real weight. Obviously, the young person driving the car in your analogy is actually weilding the instrument of harm at the time it causes the harm. What was Dawn Nguyen’s instrument of harm? The pen she used to sign a form two and a half years earlier?

      Let’s assume, for purposes of discussion, that Dawn Nguyen bought the guns intending to give them to Spengler, and that she knew he was a felon, and that she also knew it was illegal for him to have a gun. Here’s what the argument really is: it is foreseeable under these circumstances that Spengler will cause harm. Foreseeability is generally a negligence concept, not a criminal one. The law is quite reluctant to impose criminal liability for negligence. At least it used to be. But you can take a look at Penal Law 125.10 if you like. It’s the exception that proves the rule.

      Beyond that, however, note that even Penal Law 125.10 requires that the accused person must have “caused” the death of another person to be criminally liable for the homicide. Foreseeability and causation are very related concepts in negligence law – at the margins. And causation, in close cases, can be pretty complicated: “but-for” causation, “proximate” causation, “intervening” causation, and so on.

      Legally speaking, in causation terms, of course this is not a close case for many reasons, the fact of an intervening and independent criminal act of another being just one. Which is why Dawn Nguyen wasn’t charged with violating Penal Law 125.10. There’s no sensible argument on the law that she caused the deaths of the firefighters, other than in a very remote “but-for” manner. And one big problem with relying on that kind of causation is that too many other people will fit into it, which is exactly the point I have made several times. If it is truly important to hold everyone with an equivalent “but-for” causation role “accountable” for their “poor choices”, as the pat phrases go, then the feds should be conducting a thorough investigation to find every possible person in the 2-1/2 years Spengler would have had those weapons to determine who violated 18 U.S.C. 4.

      The fact that they have not done so, and just as importantly the fact that no one is clamoring for them to do so, not even the law enforcement community that is so keen to rain fire and brimstone down on Dawn Nguyen’s head, reveals this frenzy for what it is: Nguyen is a convenient scapegoat, and finding and prosecuting everyone else with equivalent or near equivalent liability is too hard, among other things.

      You cannot ascribe what is happening to Dawn Nguyen as “fate”, any more than you can say that Spengler’s act was some kind of fate for which he is not responsible. This is, as you rightly say elsewhere, a deliberate process. We are doing this to Dawn Nguyen, it isn’t just “happening” to her because of fate.

      And we are doing it to her knowing full well that we cannot, with any semblance of fidelity to the law, accuse her of having caused the events of Christmas eve 2012. We are seeking the same result, however, through what can only be described as a subterfuge. Frustrated that there is no one truly responsible left to punish, we find some reason to punish her and then rationalize it. She made “poor choices”. Throw in a little character assassination to reassure ourselves that she deserves what we are doing to her.

      Here’s another thing you and the law enforcement community might ponder: how is it honoring the dead firefighters to extend Spengler’s swath of destruction further? How much is enough? How does it help anything to become the instrument of the dead hand of Spengler?

      When you prosecute someone to placate some person or group, don’t be surprised when that person or group becomes implacable. That’s the problem I see, and it’s far more worrisome than anything Dawn Nguyen might have done.


    • kent

      Jerry, your rationale is flawed since a gun doesn’t kill people, bullets kill people. In your scenario, the car would have to be the gun and the front bumper would have to be the bullet (sometimes hitting a person but often not). Spengler would be the driver of the car and Nguyen would be the salesperson selling Spengler a car he drove 931 days later but knowing at time of sale that Spengler didn’t have a license to drive a car. She has been found guilty of falsifying business records for Pete’s sake, not buying bullets or knowing Spengler was going to go crazy 931 days later due to his mother dying, bequeathing her money to the fire department, and then being told by his sister to move out because she was selling the house. No one could have known or predicted the outcome of Spengler’s actions, and had the mother not bequeathed the money to the fire department I highly doubt any of this would have happened. This is a sad but true statement, so do you also want to blame the fire department for accepting the money bequeathed to them? Of course not, but the rationale and circular reasoning exists just as it does with those that blame Nguyen for Spengler’s actions.


  8. I understand that chain of causality is the sticking point in your accepting my analogy of the DUI incident. Like any analogy, it fits in some respects, and doesn’t fit in others. The question is whether the relevant or pertinent aspects are matched so as to illuminate the larger point. Of course, there are differences between driving a car under the influence and purchasing guns for someone else. There is a longer time lag in the latter case, and another agent acting criminally in order for the damage to be done. Those differences are not the pertinent aspects of the analogy though. Maybe a closer analogy would be Dawn blowing into the breathalyzer interlock on Stengler’s car, so that he could drive it while intoxicated. That fits the actual situation better, but it also introduces other aspects that may not be provable. The pertinent fact is that, like driving while intoxicated, it is illegal for felons to buy guns. That is because for both acts there is a demonstrable statistical increase in the likelihood of injuries and deaths resulting from engaging in them. Dawn was the instrument that circumvented the law against felons buying guns – she bought the gun for him. She bears the responsibility for the consequences of that circumvention. The consequences of either action can be trivial – most drunk drivers don’t even get caught, much less cause any damage. But the legal precedent when they do get caught – and when the action results in great harm – is clear. They are punished based on the damage that resulted, not on their intentions or knowledge of the consequences for disobeying the law. We can’t say what Dawn’s intentions or knowledge were. We know only too well what the damages were. It doesn’t matter whether the community is outraged, or whether there are those bent on revenge and not justice. What matters is the law. The law must be enforced in accordance with legal precedent and intent or it is meaningless. And to allow or enable felons to buy and own guns is not defensible in anyone’s calculus. Rather than weakening that law by non-enforcement, we should be seeking ways to strengthen it.


    • Jerry, you’re too facile about analogies. Yours works up to a point, I suppose, but it really fails on causation. And causation is very “pertinent” in criminal law. And usually it’s important for causation to be coupled with intent.

      The law never punishes criminally based solely on “great harm”. Plane crashes indisputably result in great harm, but ordinarily no one is criminally liable for them. On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes acts or omissions resulting in no harm can be punished criminally. A criminal conspiracy that is never completed, for instance.

      Key to criminal liability is a culpable mental state, a mens rea.

      If – and I mean IF – Dawn specifically bought the guns for Spengler knowing he was a felon and knowing that it was illegal for him to have guns – then she would have a culpable mental state and she would be guilty of what she was convicted of, and maybe a federal law as well though I’m not on top of that at this point. But absent that she’s not guilty of any criminal act at all, no matter how much harm may have resulted, and that’s assuming the harm everyone’s really concerned about – the shooting of the firefighters on Christmas eve – “resulted” from it in any legally meaningful sense.

      I certainly agree that the law must be enforced “…in accordance with legal precedent [that is, consistently] and intent…”, and I also agree that knowingly “allowing” felons to “own” guns is “indefensible”, so I eagerly await the results of the thorough investigation into how many of Spengler’s acquaintances and neighbors found out he had those guns over a period of about two and one-half years, because anyone who did would also have a culpable mental state, would also have violated a criminal law (18 U.S.C. 4) and would be a more proximate cause of the firefighters’ deaths than Dawn Nguyen is supposed to be. It would be quite unfair and selective to prosecute her and not them.

      But I don’t want to be glib. I do not actually support such an investigation and think it is quite obvious that it would be casting far too big a net for criminal liability, just as I think they have cast the net way too far in prosecuting Dawn Nguyen.

      And here’s something for you to chew on: let’s say Spengler told her “Hey, I’m not allowed to buy guns because I have an old felony but I’m really worried about protecting my mother and sister and if you will buy them for me it will be perfectly legal. Could you be a good neighbor and just sign here?”, and she believed him and did as he asked. Is she guilty?

      My answer to that would be no. I could see a case for civil, negligence type liability if so much time hadn’t passed between her act and the damage. One of the problems here is a failure to distinguish between civil wrongs and criminal acts. Somtimes that can be difficult – civil fraud and criminal fraud are pretty much the same thing, so how do you decide when a given fraud has crossed the line into the criminal?

      There’s a bigger problem going on here, too. I might deal with that later.


  9. JMRJ, you can’t truly believe that knowing that a felon possessed guns, even if it is an offense, is as serious, as dangerous, as destructive as actually providing the guns to him. And to convict on that charge you would have to prove knowledge not only of the possession of the guns, but of the previous felony conviction and the law against that possession – COMBINED WITH an attempt to conceal that knowledge. Slim pickings indeed; unlikely that anyone could be found to fit that description, and what would be the gain to society to pursue it other than to make criminals out of people who just want to mind their own business? On the other hand, buying guns for someone else automatically proves knowledge that the other person is prohibited from buying his own guns, so a deliberate circumvention (also called breaking) of the law is ipso facto present . (I’m no lawyer, but you’re inspiring me!) And while there may be no causation and no intent to cause the later devastation inflicted with those guns, there is a clear legal principle that a person committing a crime which results in unintended malevolent consequences is held accountable not only for the original crime, but for the consequences that follow. The driver of a getaway car in a liquor store robbery is accountable for the murder of the owner, even though he was not armed and did not in any way cause or intend the owner to be shot. The intoxicated driver who kills another motorist is accountable even if he was driving his girlfriend home because she was too drunk to drive – a noble intention. The degree of accountability varies with the degree the act was material to the outcome, and with the magnitude of the damage. In this case the act was essential to the outcome – we can speculate that Spengler could have obtained firearms by other means, but speculation is all it is: there is no evidence that he would have done so. And if he had, that would have made those suppliers just as culpable as Nguyen. The fact is that the act WAS committed with those guns, therefore it could not have been committed without those guns – not that act. And the damage was horrific.


    • “Intent” to conceal? No problem. I just get some ex-stripper who will say that the defendant “told” her the defendant meant to conceal it.

      You buy a car for your son who has a prior DWI and he does it again and kills someone. You’re a criminal, because of the horrific consequences and bad choice you made?

      And yes, the felony murder rule. It shouldn’t be the law but it is. We keep finding people guilty of “murder” when they didn’t intend to kill anyone and in fact did not kill anyone. It’s a draconian rule that should have been abolished long ago, but I’ll grant you it still works, much more often than you’d think. Maybe that’s one reason we have more people incarcerated than any other country on earth by far.

      Still, vicarious liability in the criminal law is rare. And should be.

      The interesting question I posed to you before is whether you have to know what you’re doing is against the law in order to be criminally liable. In the example I gave you I would say yes, but prosecutors and judges would say no. One reason for that is that we’ve lost the distinction between mala prohibita and malum in se. For the latter, I’d agree that you don’t need to prove that a defendant knew what he was doing was illegal. But for the former I think it should be a required element of proof, since the only reason the act is criminal at all is that it’s against the law, not that there’s something inherently wrong with it.

      But that’s a big subject, the moral relativism of the justice system and the grotesque results it produces.

      In any case, as to those who, in the two and a half year period “knew”, by whatever stripper evidence we can coerce muster: they committed a crime? Check. There were “horrific” sequelae? Check. The sequelae were causally related, however tenuously, to the original crime? Check.

      It’s a little different in your favor, because it’s an omission and not an affirmative act. Cutting against you, though, it’s more proximate in time to the horrific consequence. It’s a wash. So you round them all up and prosecute them, too.

      Or you prosecute no one, and leave the responsibility where it belongs. Other than that let God sort it out, he’ll do a much better job.


  10. Jerry, Spengler had another gun which he used to kill his sister and himself, that was not one that was purchased by Dawn at Gander Mountain. Did you not know that?


  11. Amber, I’m sorry that you have to go through this. I can only imagine how painful it must be for you. I don’t feel that it is proper for me to debate with you over something that is so personal. I am sorry for your loss.


    • Amber

      Thank you Jerry. I do not get as upset as others in my family do, I understand everyone has a right to their opinion, and yours has not been hateful or nasty.

      I just wanted to inform you that there was an additional weapon used to kill half the people that day, and it was not one that was purchased by my sister. Also, there was no ammunition purchased by her either. Guns don’t kill people without ammunition. No mention of where that came from either. Have a great day.


  12. Thanks Amber. You have been most gracious as well, a difficult feat under such circumstances. I was aware that Spengler had another gun (a pistol, I believe) which he used to kill his sister and himself. Obviously, Dawn was not implicated in any way in those shootings.
    Your point about ammunition is a good one, and has a potential to limit the carnage that evil and deranged people can cause. Unfortunately, even the weak restrictions that exist for felons obtaining guns did not exist for ammunition prior to Spengler’s rampage. While it is technically illegal for felons to buy ammunition under federal law, no checking is required; and anyone can buy ammunition by mail order. NY has since passed a law (I would guess that it’s part of the SAFE act) requiring ammunition purchases to be checked against a list of prohibited people, including felons.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amber

      Jerry, if selling a firearm such as the ones Mr. Spengler had possession of in a private sale does not require a background check, and selling ammunition also does not require a background check, but are both illegal for a felon to own/purchase; shouldn’t the person who sold him the ammunition be equally liable? So if we just changed a law to make it a requirement for ammunition to require a background check, we should make it a law for private sales to require the same. Then either both people should be charged (my sister and the person who sold the ammunition), or both not charged and new laws put in place. What threat does my sister serve the community as of today and the future?


  13. Amber

    To be honest, to be it would make more sense that the ammunition supplier be charged, because of the fact that; they are more likely to have supplied ammunition to numerous other felons, which could lead to more deaths, where Dawn was only known to purchase 2 weapons.


  14. Amber, I don’t think Dawn is any threat to the community. I’m quite sure she’ll never repeat her mistake. That’s the wrong question, though. The question is how will the community at large be harmed by not giving her a significant penalty? In my judgment, the answer is a great deal. If deliberately providing guns for people who are enjoined from having them does not carry a significant penalty – especially when the consequences in this case have been so horrific – then the law has no meaning. No one will have any reason to follow the law. If parents in the future tell their children ‘don’t ever buy a gun for someone else because you might end up in jail for a long time’, society as a whole will be changed for the better. It’s extremely unfortunate for Dawn and for your family, but it’s the right outcome for the legal system in its duty to protect its citizens from harm.


    • Amber

      Unfortunately I don’t see that as a true statement. If prison detoured criminals we wouldn’t have a need for jails or prisons, especially with the overcrowding going on at the moment. Prison is for people who are likely to break the law again, not first time offenders. I wish life did work like that.


    • I appreciate this comment. How profoundly we disagree. I don’t know where to begin.

      You have a cop-prosecutor perspective. There’s some legitimacy in it, but run out to the extremes to which you take it, you wind up turning things on their head.

      The “legal system” most emphatically is not, at its core, about a “…duty to protect its citizens from harm.” That isn’t even the core responsibility of the police. The “legal system” (and maybe we shouldn’t use that term but I’ll run with it for now) is a truth finding process. It concerns harms that have already occurred, at least in any tangible sense, and fixes liability, civil or criminal. Protecting citizens from harm may or may not be a by-product of the legal system’s processes, but determining the truth is the essential function. That’s why jury determinations are referred to as “verdicts”.

      The truth is often neither safe nor pleasant. The truth may be that hazards exist and nothing we do collectively can eliminate them. In civil law this is widely acknowledged. Only in the criminal law, and there only in the perspective of the extreme cop-prosecutor mind, is every hazard resolved by locking someone up and when that won’t do passing ever more draconian laws to lock up even more.

      To a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

      There was a time when the prosecution of Dawn Nguyen would have been widely seen as insane and cruel. That may not be the case at the moment, but then the Salem witch trials had a lot of contemporaneous momentum behind them, too. Things revert to the mean eventually, and this is one of those cases people will look back on down the line and shake their heads at how the “community at large” behaved.


    • kent

      Jerry, people choose to follow the law on their own terms. The death penalty does not stop murder. The old Rockefeller Drug laws, with their mandatory 15 year-to-life mandatory minimum sentence, did not deter people from selling drugs (I know this for a fact because I was sentenced under that law and plenty others followed me to prison). The “legal system” isn’t protecting anyone by sentencing Ms. Nguyen to any time in prison, since it neither serves a purpose for the community as a whole nor serves as a deterrent to others. It only serves one purpose: To satisfy the cops’/firefighters’ hunger for twisted retribution because they can’t get it from Spengler.


  15. I’m sorry I was so inarticulate in my last response. Judging by your comments, I completely failed to communicate my central point. JMRC, your comments on the purpose of the legal system are insightful and instructive. I’m surprised to find myself representing a ‘law and order’ mentality because my sympathies lie much more on the ‘protection of individual rights’ end of the scale. When I said ‘legal system’, I was referring to the construct that every society has – and needs to have – rules, injunctions, or mores to protect its members. Prohibition of violence, theft and the like are central to a stable society. I agree that any given society can extend those prohibitions to acts that a future generation will regard as xenophobic, superstitious, and repressive – e.g. the Salem witch trials that you mention. Indeed, your thesis has always been that this trial, and the calls for a punitive sentence, are an example of that kind of ‘mob mentality’ overreaction. While there may be ‘mob mentality’ elements in the cries for retribution, my sincere belief is that the society will be served in its legitimate need to control random violence and murder by holding Dawn Nguyen to a high degree of accountability and consequence, by imposing a substantial sentence. Indeed, my belief and thesis is that not doing so will harm the society considerable – not because Dawn herself is a dangerous person who needs to be removed from society – but because the act itself of illegally providing guns for someone who used them to murder and injure others must be one that is not condoned or trivialized in any way. A light sentence will send a clear message that it’s not a big deal to arm felons; therefore that behavior will continue to be tolerated throughout society.
    To go back to my analogy to drunk driving, when I was in my 20’s, no one thought twice about going out drinking, then driving home. Everyone knew it was ‘wrong’, and illegal, but the odds against facing any consequences were small and remote, and everyone winked and looked the other way. Now, because of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving campaign along with increased enforcement and prosecution, my son and his friends wouldn’t think of going out drinking without arranging for a designated driver or some other means of getting home. Society is much the better for this change in attitude and behavior. Drunk driving fatalities and injuries are a fraction of what they once were. 30,000 people are killed annually in this country with guns. Some of those are by people who should not ever be able to obtain guns. There is a general winking and looking the other way mentality about providing guns (and ammunition), to people who should not have them. That needs to change. Because of the high profile nature of this case, what happens here will have a far broader effect that a single ‘falsifying business documents’ charge would ever normally have. This could be a watershed moment in reducing gun violence – or in allowing it to continue unabated. We are on the cusp of a change in societal attitudes and mores about providing guns to those prohibited from having them, and the sentence in this case will be a determining factor as to whether that change gains momentum or withers on the vine.


    • Interesting. One problem is that collectivism insidiously creeps into our thinking because it’s so prevalent. But it’s odd when it surfaces in the context of a criminal prosecution.

      The impulse to convict is often couched in individualistic terms: we must hold the defendant personally, individually accountable for his actions, or frequently these days for his “poor choices”. But when someone says it’s too much, too harsh we default to a collectivist position: we must visit harsher consequences than would otherwise be warranted because the “community” will benefit.

      Even leaving aside the dubiousness of the propositions involved, the shift in underlying principles during the course of the argument says something. What exactly, I’m not sure at the moment. Maybe I’ll return to the subject later.


    • kent

      Falsifying business records to obtain guns for an ex-con, or obtaining guns for an ex-con through other means, will never stop so long as there are guns and a need/want by ex-cons to obtain those guns. Supply will always meet demand, and an argument that Dawn’s sentence will somehow change the supply side of the equation is not akin to harsher drunk driving prosecutions subsequently causing change . There is no economic equation in the latter.


  16. True statement Kent. No laws, sentences or change in public sentiments will ever stop any kind of crime. Someone with enough motivation, resources, opportunity and disregard for their own fate can and will commit any crime they can conceive of. But we are dealing with statistics and probability here, not deterministic causality. We can make it harder and less likely to occur. Laws, sentences, and public sentiments will not affect any particular case, but they will affect the total numbers of such cases. We have not stopped drunk driving and we never will. But a combination of laws, enforcement, and public attitudes have cut the number of deaths and injuries from drunk driving dramatically. The same can happen for gun deaths.


    • Criminal prosecutions are not an instrument for addressing the finer points of social engineering. A few years back a lot of places started making parents vicariously criminally liable for the crimes of their minor children. I’m sure with draconian enforcement those laws would have reduced juvenile crime considerably. I’m also sure there was an argument in their favor virtually the same as the one you are making now.

      The wider you cast the net, the more people you potentially catch up in it, and the more arbitrary selecting one out of all the eligible candidates to prosecute looks. You haven’t really answered that objection. I don’t think there is an answer.

      All this aside, I might be alone in thinking that there’s a good chance the judge won’t send Dawn Nguyen to prison. First time non-violent E-felony offenders don’t go to prison. That’s such a hard and fast rule, and departing from it would be such an obvious act of pandering to an influential constituency, that there’s at least a chance it won’t happen. Plus I’m sure Matt Parrinello will put up a good fight.


      • kent

        JMRJ, I wish it were that easy (sigh). Matt will put up a good fight, but the fact that Judge Moran took Nguyen into custody after verdict (something never done in this type of crime) is only a taste of things to come. Moran is former DA and cop…he will crucify Nguyen with max and parole board will hit her out to CR date. (BTW, I wish I could write as well as you and Jerry).


  17. Joe

    Question from a legal novice – What is taken into account when determining sentencing?
    Is she being sentenced for the crime of Falsifying a Business record which then caused a felon to be in possession of weapons which he later used to kill 3 people; Or during sentencing is the crime to be viewed the same a doctor who is convicted of this crime for knowingly filling out paperwork incorrectly?


    • kent

      Judge is NOT supposed to take into account what the felon did with the guns (whether it be a week later or, in this case, 931 days later). The judge is supposed to only take into account the crime alone, and then determine Nguyen’s sentence based solely on her being convicted of a non-violent, E-Felony crime, also taking into account the defendant’s past criminal history (none in this case), the defendant’s character, chances of committing future crimes, etc., etc. This is why, in my opinion, she deserves probation.


    • kent

      BTW, Joe, only 2 of the 3 guns that were used to kill people were bought by Nguyen. The other gun, used to kill Spengler’s sister Cheryl, was bought by someone else, but that person has never veen charged, nor was the person who bought the ammo for Spengler….Hmmmm).


  18. Joe

    So does that mean that the victims of the crimes committed by Spengler will not be allowed to speak at/influence sentencing?

    I’m not trying to start arguments, just trying to understand what exactly she is being sentenced for and what influence the community can and will have on the decision.


    • kent

      There are no victims in the crime for which Nguyen was convicted, so to answer your question, neither the victims of the crimes committed by Spengler nor the victims’ families will be able to speak at sentencing. Nguyen is being sentenced solely for falsifying business records, a class E Felony that is a non-violent crime. Maximum sentence is 1 /3 – to – 4 years, which means the most she would have to serve is 2/3 of the maximum sentence. It is unheard of anyone getting the maximum sentence for this crime, especially someone who has no prior criminal history whatsoever (not even a misdemeanor or YO on her record), and someone who was a college student and an upstanding citizen in all respects other than the day she allegedly committed the crime of falsifying business records. The judge should sentence her to probation (or at the most, 1 year county time where she would serve 8 months), but that ain’t gonna happen in this case. Judge doesn’t have the balls to stand up to mob mentality and will give her the max…there should be no place for cowards in the criminal justice system but, sadly, it is what it is.


  19. The firemen have been there during her whole trail and in uniform plus policeman also and The judge was also a ex cop a DA .The witness lied more than once .they hid evidence .The radio shows not all but the one’s that promote hate like the Kim and Beck show saying she was a stripper and a escort when in fact she was not she is not a drug user she went to Geneseo college for a degree in Business and Accounting. She plans to open a business but now her dream will be on hold .And one more thing I thought federal had power over the State so why two different courts and a jury who did not even know what had to be proved.


  20. MaryAnn

    John, I agree with your comments. This definitely had elements of a substitute prosecution. The Xmas shooting was a terrible tragedy and people rightly want someone to pay for the crime. But that someone is dead. If the young woman knowingly purchased guns for Spengler, 2 1/2 years before he used them to kill, then she broke the law by falsifying documents. But Spengler is the one who chose to kill, and I don’t believe Nguyen had any idea he might do that at the time – regardless of his past and taking into account she was a naive kid and possibly not too knowledgeable about many things. Spengler had those guns for 2 1/2 years and did nothing with them; it appears the fact that his sister had just closed on a new home for herself and was selling the Lake Rd house may be what set Spengler off. Also, Spengler’s suicide note states Nguyen’s mother was involved and duped her daughter into buying the guns. Why hasn’t more been looked into about that? Why the note wasn’t introduced in the trial I don’t understand. The judge said it was hearsay; I’d think it would fall more under a dying declaration. And while I can understand the victims families wanting justice, Spengler is dead; prosecuting and sentencing Nguyen to anything more than falsifying a record is wrong, IMO. Spengler would have gotten some kind of weapon no matter what, if he wanted to. People who want to kill will find a way to do it. The fact is he had them for 2 1/2 years and didn’t use them and the weapon he used to kill his sister, I believe, was not one of those purchased by Nguyen…so where did he get that one from? Who else purchased a gun allegedly for Spengler?


    • TJ

      I agree, why isn’t the mother in court facing charges? Or supporting her daughter? Or stepping up to testify on her 25 year old daughter’s behalf.

      MAybe one of the people with so much information on the case can fill us in on THIS PART of the story.


  21. Scapegoating: the transferability of sin:
    Punishing the innocent for the sins
    of the guilty


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