Stillwater nail salon employee accused of sexual battery

Payne County Assistant District Attorney Deborah Vincent presents evidence during a preliminary hearing for Nam Huu Nguyen, a man accused of groping customers at the Stillwater nail salon where he was employed in July 2020. He is scheduled for trial May 18. 

Editors note: This story was amended to correct the type of hearing the defendant faces next.

A former Stillwater nail salon employee accused of sexually assaulting at least three customers will continue to be held in the Payne County Jail as he awaits trial, unless he can meet his $75,000 bond.

Nam Huu Nguyen, 46, went before Special District Judge Katherine E. Thomas for a preliminary hearing on Thursday.

He was bound over for trial court arraignment before Associate District Judge Stephen R. Kistler at 9 a.m. May 18.

Nguyen entered the courtroom charged with one count of rape by instrumentation and two counts of sexual battery but the rape charge was dropped and replaced with a third charge of sexual battery after his accusers testified.

Defense attorney Royce Hobbs argued that the evidence presented did not support a charge of rape by instrumentation and Thomas agreed.

Thomas rejected Hobbs’ request to reduce Nguyen’s bond to $30,000 so he can go to Houston and care for his 87-year-old mother.

Assistant District Attorney Deborah Vincent cited Nguyen’s lack of ties to Payne County, the fact that he previously left the state and couldn’t be located, the fact that he has shown the ability to move around the country, the fact that he was apprehended by Border Patrol while trying to cross from New York into Canada, his previous convictions and imprisonment in other states for credit card fraud and bad checks and his stated intent to leave the state again as reasons to deny the request.

Although his three accusers testified that Nguyen had communicated with them in English during their interactions with him, a translator was used in the courtroom to communicate with him about the proceedings.

Finding a Vietnamese translator has not been easy for the court.

Thomas said state statute requires using a certified translator but allows using someone with less formal qualifications if good cause can be shown.

Nguyen has been in custody since November and his preliminary hearing has been continued at least once because a certified translator willing to come to Payne County for the hearing couldn’t be found, she said.

Oklahoma State University assisted the court in finding someone who could serve as an alternative translator.

Nguyen is accused of fondling or groping customers of the nail salon where he was employed in July, 2020.

All three accusers, one of whom is a minor, told nearly identical stories. They all said he convinced them to let him wax their eyebrows then took them to room in the back of the salon marked “employees only” and closed the door.

At least one testified that a friend wanted to accompany her and he wouldn’t allow it.

One of the accusers has a medical condition that makes it difficult for her to walk or move quickly and had to be helped through the courtroom.

The groping began after he waxed their brows, under the pretense that he was offering to wax other parts of their bodies, including their chests and bikini areas, the women said.

He is accused of removing or pulling their clothing down without their consent and as they protested and touching them in a sexual manner.

One accuser said he told her not to tell anyone what he had done because he wasn’t charging her for the waxing. Another said the woman who accompanied her had already paid $10 for the brow waxing by the time she managed to get out of the room.

The testimony was difficult and emotional for the accusers and some details were difficult to recall during examination by the defense.

“I tried to put it in a deep, dark box and lock it away, throw it away,” one of the women said.

Det. Mary Kellison said more accusers contacted the Stillwater Police Department with similar stories after the investigation made news, but only three were willing to file charges.

Nguyen had recently started working at the salon when the incidents began, she said.

The salon’s owner said Nguyen was a contract worker who was fired from Royal Nails on July 15, after a customer came forward about her experience, the News Press previously reported.

SPD could not locate him, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Nguyen told the court during a previous hearing that he did not flee the state, because he didn’t know he had committed a crime.

Nguyen was apprehended in Lawrence County, New York, in October and extradited to Oklahoma.

Twitter: @mcharlesNP

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