By Jenn Fang
Northwest Asian Weekly
On April 28, the judge in Nan-Hui Jo’s child abduction case rejected the motion to dismiss the guilty verdict against her, and sentenced Jo to 175 days of jail (counted as time served) and three years probation. A jury found Jo guilty of child abduction in March — despite errors in jury instructions highlighted by Jo’s defense in their motion — after Jo fled an abusive relationship she believed endangered both herself and her child and (because she lacked documentation to remain in the United States) and returned to Korea.
A survivor of years of domestic violence at the hands of her former partner which included both physical and emotional abuse, Nan-Hui Jo escaped with her daughter Hwi to South Korea after her American work visa expired. After six years, Jo applied for a travel visa to allow her American-born child travel to the United States to tour schools while Jo’s own permanent resident application was pending.
However, Jo’s former partner, Jesse Charlton, had filed child abduction charges against Jo, and when Jo arrived in America, she was arrested. After her first trial ended in a hung jury, Jo was retried with additional threats of deportation added by Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while Jo’s former partner was awarded full custody of their child.
Jo’s case ignited Asian American and domestic violence advocates through social media. A Twitterstorm garnered numerous tweets through the hashtags #StandWithNanHui and #WeSurvived. Numerous activists also changed their social media profile pictures in solidarity with Nan-Hui Jo, and NBC News covered the story. Members of Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Abuse (KACEDA) organized court watches, and maintained updates from the trial.
The judge in Jo’s case lowered her child abduction conviction to a misdemeanor and sentenced her to 175 days in jail and three years probation, with time served for the 8 months she has already spent in jail awaiting her trial.
Jo was therefore released from county jail, but immediately into ICE custody due to an immigration hold placed on Jo by ICE and Customs & Border Protection. Advocates say that ICE officers were on-hand to take Jo into custody as she was processed out of county jail following her sentencing. Jo was permitted mere minutes of measured “freedom” in the lobby of the county jail to thank her supporters before she was taken into ICE custody.
Jo’s conviction on the child abduction charges now stand (and likely await an appeal) which significantly complicates her fight to regain custody of her six-year-old daughter, who is currently being cared for by Jo’s abuser, the child’s father. Meanwhile, because Jo is not a U.S. citizen, ICE placed a deportation hold on her.
After her sentencing, Jo was transferred to ICE custody and is being detained in an ICE facility pending a decision on deportation.
With this move, Nan-Hui Jo is likely to become one of the thousands of immigrant parents separated from their families by ICE deportation. (end)
Jenn Fang can be reached at email@example.com.