The incident in Karla Dominguez’s apartment last October was violent, and it was not consensual, she testified in Alexandria District Court in December. The man she accused was indicted on charges including rape, strangulation and abduction and jailed without bond in Alexandria.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. Ibrahim E. Bouaichi’s lawyers argued that the virus was a danger to both inmates and their attorneys, and that Bouaichi should be freed awaiting trial. On April 9, over the objections of an Alexandria prosecutor, Circuit Court Judge Nolan Dawkins released Bouaichi on $25,000 bond, with the condition that he only leave his Maryland home to meet with his lawyers or pretrial services officials.
On July 29, Alexandria police say, Bouaichi, 33, returned to Alexandria and shot and killed Dominguez outside her apartment in the city’s West End.
When police couldn’t find Bouaichi after the slaying, they issued a video news release asking for the public’s help in locating him, declaring him “armed and dangerous.” Then on Wednesday morning, federal marshals and Alexandria police spotted Bouaichi in Prince George’s County and pursued him, causing Bouaichi to crash, authorities said. When the police went to arrest Bouaichi, they found he had apparently shot himself. He was reported to be in grave condition Thursday.
Bouaichi’s release from jail and the slaying of Dominguez represent a tragic side effect of the pandemic. As the coronavirus erupted in America, civil liberties advocates called for the release of large numbers of prisoners from jails and prisons in order to keep them from being infected and possibly dying in necessarily confined spaces.
In Alexandria, Bouaichi’s lawyers said in their motion for bond that “social distancing and proper disinfecting measures are impossible while incarcerated.… Simply put, the risk of contracting Covid-19 in a jail is exceedingly obvious.” The lawyers, Manuel Leiva and Frank Salvato, also noted the risk for themselves in the jail, saying that lawyers seeking a contact visit would “also expose themselves to contaminated air and surfaces.”
Leiva and Salvato also claimed that the Alexandria jail had “imposed severe restrictions on visitation since the Covid-19 outbreak,” that all contact visits (meaning no glass or separation between visitor and inmate) were stopped and that the lawyers could only have video conference sessions lasting 30 minutes maximum. A trial date was set for Bouaichi, and his lawyers said he was “being effectively deprived of legal counsel.”
Alexandria jail officials responded that they do allow contact visits for attorneys upon request, and have accommodated several requests. “We have also provided video conferences in excess of 30 minutes,” jail spokeswoman Amy Bertsch said. “However, we do not have any record of Mr. Leiva or his co-counsel requesting a face-to-face visit with Ibrahim Bouaichi after the protocols went into effect in late March.”
Bertsch noted that the jail implemented increased cleaning and health screening in early March “and there were no cases of covid-19 at the jail during their client’s incarceration.”
Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan L. Porter said Leiva and Salvato filed their motion on April 8 and Clark set the hearing for the next day, so prosecutors did not file a written response. Porter noted that under Virginia law, those charged with certain violent crimes such as rape are presumed to be a danger and are not eligible for bond.
“We strenuously argued that the presumption” against bond, Porter said, “had not been overcome, given the facts of the case and the violent nature of the alleged offense.” He declined to provide details of the attack because both the rape and murder cases against Bouaichi are pending.
Judge Dawkins retired in June, after serving 12 years as a circuit court judge and 14 years before that on the juvenile and domestic relations court. He did not respond to a request for comment. Judges typically are prohibited from commenting on pending cases.