Judge keeps father in custody in Child Abuse case
PEABODY, MA – A Peabody father charged with grabbing his 11-year-old daughter by the throat and hitting her with a belt after learning she had the Snapchat app on her phone will remain in custody until trial, a Peabody District Court judge ruled on Friday.
Judge James Barretto made the ruling following a hearing where Sean Nguyen’s sister, Michelle Nguyen, testified that she was misquoted in a police report about the June 17 incident. Michelle Nguyen told the judge Friday that she never saw her brother hitting the child with a belt, despite what it says in a Peabody police report.
Barretto was not convinced, saying he did not find her testimony on Friday to be credible.
Sean Nguyen, 31, of 2 Aborn St., Peabody, has pleaded not guilty to strangulation and assault and battery on a child causing injury.
The incident occurred late Saturday night, while Sean Nguyen’s daughter was visiting him for the weekend. He learned that the girl had installed the Snapchat application on the phone, and wanted to see if there were any inappropriate photos.
Michelle Nguyen, who was called as a defense witness Friday, testified that she was downstairs in her own apartment when she heard yelling and screaming, and went upstairs, where she found her brother and his daughter in the girl’s room.
“I want the phone,” he said. “I want to see the pictures.”
“Chino, you need to chill,” she said she told her brother. “That’s when I grabbed her.”
Michelle Nguyen told the judge that she took the girl to her apartment downstairs, and then to her sister Vikki’s home in Salem.
From there, they took the girl to the Salem police station.
Prosecutor Deirdre Foley suggested that the actions of both of the defendant’s sisters that evening show that they were concerned for the girl’s well-being.
“Ms. Nguyen cared enough, and was concerned enough, to take her niece out of the home,” said Foley. “They were telling him, ‘Calm down, Chino.’ He was angry. It’s fair to infer that he was out of control.”
Foley said Sean Nguyen’s response to discovering the Snapchat app was “beyond anything that could ever be considered reasonable.”
‘Responsible and loving’
Sean Nguyen’s lawyer, Kevin Chapman, pointed to a Department of Children and Families report that says the girl told investigators it was the first time her father had acted aggressively toward her.
The girl’s mother also expressed surprise at the allegations, Chapman said, citing the DCF report. She told investigators that Sean Nguyen had “never been abusive” to either her or their child.
“He has always been responsible and loving toward this child,” Chapman said, citing the mother’s statement to DCF.
He noted that the girl’s mother, who has custody of the girl and lives in another county, has not sought a restraining order. The girl was also described in the DCF report as being “not afraid” of her father, he said.
Chapman argued that police have overcharged his client, noting that while Sean Nguyen is facing a charge of assault and battery on a child causing injury, police found no marks on the girl and there is no evidence she suffered any physical injury.
He told the judge he plans to seek dismissal of that count at the next hearing in the case on July 17.
Sean Nguyen was visibly upset during the hearing, and after the judge’s ruling ordering that he remain in custody, he tried to address the judge directly.
“As a father,” he began, before being cut off by his lawyer and the judge.
Chapman said outside court that he plans to appeal Barretto’s decision to a Superior Court judge.
Because of extensive coverage of the case on local television earlier in the week, Sean Nguyen has been held in an administrative segregation unit at the Middleton Jail, his attorney said.