A plea agreement is being considered in the case of a medical student accused of stealing an ipad that belonged to a hospital patient who died, NBC4 has learned.
Discussions took place before Friday's court appearance by Virginia Nguyen. The proposed sentence would entail community service, but no prison or jail time, according to a source close to the case.
Nguyen's attorney Ryan Rodriguez told NBC4 he was hopeful the case could be resolved. But with nothing finalized when it was called, it was continued until November 7.
Nguyen initially pleaded not guilty to charges of petty theft, grand theft, and unlawfully controlling and deleting data from a computer device.
The iPad authorities seized from Nguyen when they arrested her allegedly was the tablet owned by Natalie Packer, who fought her final battle against breast cancer at the UCLA medical center.
Medical staff rushed to her room in 2013 in a Code Blue emergency when her heart stopped. Packer's life could not be saved.
Afterwards, family noticed that the iPad she kept at bedside, and her sunglasses, had disappeared.
Several days later, Packer's sister activated the find my iphone app, and discovered the ipad still at the medical center, and re-registered as "Virginia's iPad," according to Packer's uncle Sam Heller.
The family brought this information to University Police at UCLA. A detective obtained a warrant to obtain further information from Apple, and identified the re-registered owner as Virginia Nguyen.
At the time of the iPad's disappearance, she was a third year medical student. She is no longer employed for research, the University disclosed in a statement, but citing privacy rights, declined to comment on any disciplinary action of whether she is still a student.
Heller attended Friday's hearing, and afterwards approached Nguyen and her attorney in the hallway, telling them the family intends to file a civil lawsuit.
Nguyen's defense has taken the position she picked up the iPad in the mistaken belief that it was hers, but feared punitive consequences if she returned it, according to Heller's account of what he has been told by authorities.
"So she couldn't have just left it in some room?" Heller wondered aloud. "No, she had to take it and wipe out all the secrets Natalie had put in there for her sister after she died."
Heller also wonders what became of the sunglasses, and suggests their disappearance undercuts
the defense that Nguyen picked up the iPad by mistake. "Did she take the glasses by accident?" Heller asked.
In 2012, prior to this case, Nguyen had been notified she faced dismissal from the medical school,
according to documents provided to NBC4.
After the hearing, Nguyen told NBC4 there is another side to the story, but her attorney said it is not yet time to discuss it publicly.
If there were to be a felony conviction, that would be a factor that could be considered by the medical board if Nguyen ever seeks to be licensed to practice medicine.
"What's agreeable to the family is that she never be placed in a position of trust with a patient," Heller said. "She should not be a doctor."