Convicted slumlord David Nuyen has been trying to show he’s reformed. At age 70, he claims to have turned over the family business to his 23-year-old son, and he’s poised to move back to his native Vietnam. “I want to get out. From the bottom of my heart, I want to get out. I’m tired of it,” he says. “I just want to be quiet and read books.”
There’s just one thing keeping him: his continuing legal problems.
A plea bargain in 2001 required him to sell his properties in D.C. and Maryland, but he still owns two buildings in Brightwood that he wants to sell as condos. The building’s mostly Spanish-speaking tenants had the chance to buy the building, but Nuyen posted notices only in English.
Rather than lose their homes, the families sued. A D.C. Superior Court judge ruled on Jan. 24 that Nuyen’s sales were illegal.
“For now, the good news is that our clients will not be tossed out of the building,” says Mark Patton of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which filed the suit with community nonprofit Bread for the City. “It would have been nice if the city had been paying attention.”
Nuyen was facing 2,368 charges when he took his initial plea bargain. Tenants had fought rodents, contracted lead poisoning, and been hurt in a ceiling collapse before he pleaded guilty. Because he still appears to be breaking his plea agreement, the city could reopen his criminal case—a move which is under consideration, says Tracy Traci Hughes, spokesperson for the D.C. Attorney General’s office.
Nuyen, who wrote a book that in part explains how he cheated his plea agreement, maintains a sunny disposition. “If they reopen the case, it be great, because I be clear completely,” he says. “I hope they gonna reopen the case so that I clear my name.”