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Couple who left baby in casino garage get 60 days in jail

They said they love their daughter but made a “stupid mistake.”
By: Lien Hoang, The Press Tribune
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Parents who left their 7-week-old daughter in a car to gamble at Thunder Valley Casino received a 60-day jail term Wednesday, and must pay $2,075 and attend a parenting class for the first of their four years of probation. “People in America should understand that family values are more important than one stupid mistake,” said the mother, Panfila Phu Phan, speaking exclusively with the Press Tribune. “They should forgive people, everyone makes mistakes.” Switching between English and Vietnamese, Phan did little to hold back tears as she blamed reporters for unjustly demonizing her and her husband, Thuan Huy Nguyen. “The media hurt our family,” Phan said, reluctant to speak to the press, which she accused of misrepresenting the couple. “People think I don’t love my child, but we’re a happy family, we love our baby. Why would we kill our baby?” After delivering the sentence at Roseville court, Placer County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Penney said of the defendants, “I read their backgrounds and I know that they truly are remorseful. You’re good people who made a very bad decision.” Their bad decision first made headlines when they were arrested April 13 for leaving their baby in the casino garage for two and half hours. Nguyen and Phan, both 27, eventually pleaded no contest to felony child abuse. The parents were upset that the public thinks they would intend to harm their daughter, who is now six months old and in the care of Phan’s mother. The four live together in Rancho Cordova. A restraining order allows the couple to have “peaceful contact” with the child under the supervision of Phan’s mother, prosecutor Joe McInerney said at the sentencing. With good behavior, the couple can regain custody and have the felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor in 18 months. Nguyen and Phan will each get nine days credited toward their 60-day sentence, which begins Nov. 30 and can be converted to alternative sentencing, such as wearing ankle bracelets or doing community service. “They hope everyone in the community will understand and forgive them,” defense attorney Anthony Palik said to the court, as Phan broke into tears, rubbing her eyes and nose. Before going to Thunder Valley that day in April, Nguyen, who is a permanent U.S. resident, was out looking for a job, according to his lawyer. But he and his wife are both unemployed now because of the unfavorable job market, Palik said. In an interview before the sentencing, Phan, who is a U.S. citizen, said she used to get up every morning to deliver newspapers, and that she supported herself through college while pregnant. The ordeal has weighed heavily on her, she said, and she’s thankful to be reunited with her daughter. But she wants people to see the whole picture, not just one moment of poor judgment. “We do a lot of good things and no one says anything. Then we do one bad thing ... ” she said, her voice trailing off. While holding her husband’s hand, she listened as the judge offered his valediction: “I hope you did learn from this and are successful parents in the future. Good luck to you.” Lien Hoang can be reached at lienh@goldcountrymedia.com.