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The poor track record of the D.C. Attorney General’s Office in prosecuting slumlords took another blow at a Nov. 16 probation-revocation hearing for David Nuyen. Assistant Attorney General Robert DeBerardinis appeared confident he had nailed Nuyen after a building manager testified that Nuyen still was directly involved in the rental-housing business, which would violate a 2001 plea agreement over more than 2,300 housing-code violations at two Southeast D.C. apartment buildings Nuyen had owned. “I think he’s toast,” DeBerardinis told another lawyer outside the courtroom during a break. DeBerardinis asked D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher to sentence Nuyen to up to 300 days in jail for violating his five-year probation. But Fisher then dropped a bomb: Nuyen’s plea agreement, the judge said, was not incorporated into his sentence as part of his judgment in 2001. Fisher said he could revoke the plea agreement if he finds Nuyen did violate his probation, but then Nuyen could only be retried on the initial charges, not face jail time for violating probation. “I’m really not trying to waylay the process, but I don’t know if I have the authority to do what you want me to do,” Fisher told DeBerardinis. Fisher deferred his decision until January so DeBerardinis could pull a transcript to double-check Nuyen’s sentence. An Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman says it is the duty of the prosecutor and defense attorney to ask a judge to incorporate specific requirements of a plea agreement into a sentence. Louis Barnett III, who handled Nuyen’s plea deal in 2001, is no longer with the Attorney General’s Office and couldn’t be reached for comment. The office has prosecuted just four D.C. landlords for housing-code violations since 2001. Nuyen, who was sentenced to two years in prison in a separate case in 2002 for failing to warn his tenants about lead-based paint, says he is now out of the rental-housing business. But prosecutors and several lawsuits claim he still owns at least four buildings, two of which have many housing-code violations. Some tenants who attended Nuyen’s hearing appeared confused by the outcome. “Like always, I hope the worst things happen to Mr. Nuyen,” says tenant organizer Marta Buruca.
Brendan Smith can be contacted at [email protected].

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