By Nom Hee Hwang
UPDATE: A jury has found Nan-Hui Jo guilty of child abduction. She now faces deportation and permanent separation from her child. Sentencing is scheduled for next month.
A new movement gaining traction on Twitter is awaiting the verdict on Nan-Hui Jo which could come as early as today. #StandwithNanHui revolves around the plight of a Korean national, mother and a woman who says she is the victim of domestic violence at the hands of Jesse Charlton, the estranged father of her six-year old daughter.
On July 2014, Nan-Hui Jo, was arrested on claims of child abduction when she re-entered the United States after having fled to South Korea in 2009 with her daughter, Vitz Da, in an attempt she says to escape physical and emotional abuse from Charlton. Charlton, an Iraq War veteran with PTSD, at the time, reported Nan-Hui for child abduction. According to organization that has been supporting Nan-Hui’s defense, Korean American Coalition to end Domestic Abuse (KACEDA):
“Charlton has publicly testified about his repeated violence against Nan-Hui, confirming that, on one occasion, he “grabbed her by the throat and threw her against the wall.” Charlton has also admitted that, on a separate occasion, he “broke his hand hitting the wall and punched the car’s steering wheel.” When Nan-Hui fled and attempted to rebuild her life, Charlton “sent emails saying he was ‘considering spending thousands of dollars on a scary bounty hunter.’”
In 2002, Nan-Hui arrived in America legally when she came to study film. In 2005, she was married to another man but filed for divorce due to domestic violence. Nan-Hui was able to legally reside in the U.S. due to status as a domestic violence survivor. She met Charlton in a photography class in the Sacramento City College in 2007 where he confided in her about his life.
She became pregnant with Vitz Da a couple months later. She warned Charlton about her immigration concerns and proposed to wed, but he refused. She was in process of applying for permanent U.S. residency when she arrived in Hawaii in 2014 to search for a school for her daughter, where ICE detained her and separated her from Vitz Da.
Instead of prioritizing the well being of the daughter or the safety of Nan-Hui, the prosecutorial tactic from Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig has been focused on criminalizing Nan-Hui’s escape from Charlton, even though Charlton has been diagnosed with a severe case of PTSD after serving two tours in Iraq. According to the Veterans Affairs Department, Charlton is considered to be 70% disabled, with a high chance of exhibiting symptoms of a traumatic brain injury with mood swings, erratic behavior, and depression. In the first trial, which resulted in a hung jury, Charlton testified that he was upset when he found out Nan-Hui was pregnant with his daughter. In his testimony, he admitted to showing violence in front of their daughter by throwing Nan-Hui against a wall and briefly choking her as well as becoming violent to the point where the police were called. Nan-Hui testified that Charlton was not present at his daughter’s birth and he and his step-parents tried to pressure her into having an abortion or give the child up for adoption, although this was denied by Charlton.
In the second trial, Nan-Hui recently testified that she had concerns about possible sexual abuse inflicted on her daughter by Charlton, as well. When asked if Charlton was ever violent in presence of their daughter, Nan-Hui referred to a time when “she passed the child off to Charlton and the child’s head hit his nose. He became angry and, with the child in hand, reached out and choked her.”
Presiding Judge Rosenberg stated in order for Nan-Hui to be found not guilty of charges of child abduction, the defense will have to prove that she did not act out of malicious intent in keeping their daughter away from Mr. Charlton. She can be found not guilty if is she satisfies any ONE of these qualifications for exemption for conviction:
- If a person with custody of a child reasonably believes that if the child if left with the other person will suffer physical or emotional harm, a person can hide that child from the abuser.
- Under the same circumstances, a domestic violence victim can hide a child from another person if the victim believes the child would suffer physical or emotional harm in the custody of the other person.
- The person hiding the child must report the action to the district attorney and commence a custody proceeding.
In staying with Charlton, Nan-Hui believed she and her child were in danger of his unstable mental condition. Charlton, having confessed to domestic violence against Nan-Hui and exposing his violent tendencies in front of their daughter, satisfies part (b) of California Penal Code 287.5 which states that survivors of domestic abuse with reason to believe the child may suffer bodily or emotional harm are exempt from conviction of child abduction charges. Overwhelming statistical evidence from the Hague Convention shows that children exposed to the domestic violence of the mother are at high risk for emotional and physical harm from the father.
Why Nan-Hui Chose to Return to South Korea
According to the domestic violence organization,the Rose Brooks Center:
“It is rare for Korean immigrant women to report incidents of domestic violence to the police because of a lack of understanding of how the US legal system works or how community policing works, and also out of fear or shame.
“Domestic violence is underreported, but even more so in immigrant communities, where language barriers and lack of knowledge about the legal system lead to fear and inaction. Fear of deportation is a major deterrent to the reporting of domestic violence by undocumented immigrant women.”
Undocumented women are often threatened by their partners, using their immigrant status against them as a form of control. While it has not been explicit that Jesse has threatened Ms. Jo with deportation, Nan-Hui’s case is one of thousands like hers.
Nan-Hui, having no driver’s license, no working permit, a history of applying for federal aid to support her and Vitz Da, being in fear of her tumultuous and unstable relationship with Charlton along with a fear of his mental state and fits of violence, felt escaping to South Korea would be the best solution for her daughter.
Nan-Hui’s immigrant status has been criminalized by the prosecution, thus normalizing the domestic abuse Nan-Hui endured. Jess Charlton, showing a behavioral pattern of an abusive partner is not being held accountable for his actions while Nan-Hui has been in jail for over seven months.
Even with her immigrant status, she is still afforded the right to due process. Recently, a juror was dismissed for inability to make a decision and the jury deliberations will start over today.
The needs and rights that need to be prioritized are that of Nan-Hui and Vitz Da. Ms. Jo should be granted a U visa, a special visa granting victims of violence and other criminal activity residency in the U.S. In a country where undocumented immigrants are often classified as “criminals” before any due process, this case highlights how many domestic violence survivors, especially those who are also undocumented immigrants, can be subjected to injustice to the system that should protect them.
For over seven months today, Nan-Hui has been in the Yolo County jail and separated from her daughter. On February 25, 2015, the judicial process resumed for this case and those supporting her went to social media to set up a Facebook account for Nan-Hui and set up Twitter hashtags, #StandwithNanHui, #ISurvived, and #Not1More.
People on Twitter have been sharing their powerful stories of experience with domestic violence and giving their support by sharing Nan-Hui’s story and contacting ICE.
A petition calling for the release of Nan-Hui has received over 5000 signatures. Readers can help Nan-Hui by calling ICE, share their own stories of experience with domestic violence and tweet with the hashtags, #StandwithNanHui, #ISurvived, and #Not1More.
Stay strong, Nan-Hui, and all those who are helping her.
I #StandwithNanHui as a child separated from family due to survival “crimes” and documentation status
— James Hyuna (@jameshyuna) February 25, 2015
— Miki Ding (@miki_ding) February 25, 2015
— Jenn Reappropriate (@reappropriate) February 25, 2015
— Cynthia Fong (@cynthfong) February 25, 2015
To take action:
1. CALL & TWEET ICE
Call ICE Field Director Craig Meyer at (415) 844-5512 and press #4 to ask that ICE exercise its prosecutorial discretion and drop Nan-Hui’s case.
Sample Script: “I am calling to ask Director Meyer to drop the immigration hold against Ms. Nan-Hui Jo (A 098 906 641) and allow her to reunite with her six-year-old daughter. Ms. Jo is a survivor of domestic violence and her case should be considered under the parental interests directive. I ask that ICE exercise its prosecutorial discretion and drop Ms. Jo’s deportation case.”
The local field office has the prosecutorial discretion to drop the charges against Nan-Hui. But you can also call ICE’s newly appointed director, Sarah Saldaña, in her DC office: 202-732-3000.
PLEASE ALSO TWEET AT ICE AND DIRECTOR SALDAÑA. Be sure to include:
1) ICE handle: @wwwicegov
2) Alient #A098 906 641
You can see sample tweets here or see below:
#SarahSaldaña exercise discretion: drop #deportation charges against DV victim Ms. Nan-Hui Jo (A 098 906 641) #StandWithNanHui @wwwicegov
Drop deportation charges on domestic violence survivor Nan-Hui Jo (A098 906 641). Let her stay with her child #StandWithNanHui @wwwicegov
#SarahSaldaña Nan-Hui Jo (A098 906 641) is under parental interests directive, not deportation: drop charge! #StandWithNanHui @wwwicegov
*If you have better tweets please post em!
2. SIGN THE PETITION
Sign and circulate this petition for Nan-Hui.
3. READ MORE ABOUT THIS CASE
Read additional information on the case from the People’s Vanguard of Davis, a local watchdog of government.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in attending and carpooling from the East Bay for the verdict.
Yolo County Main Courthouse
725 Court Street
Woodland, CA 95695
[[ Court Watch Guidelines ]]
+ Wear purple armbands and/or ribbons
+ Do not interact with jurors (they have juror badges)
+ Avoid getting into elevator or bathroom alone with jurors
+ Be respectful and quiet during session
+ If media wants to talk to you, please refer them to spokespeople. If you are interested in talking to media, please let us know.
+ Introduce yourself to Sacramento community & thank them for their presence
All court updates are being compiled on this Tumblr page: Please share.
Do start circulating her story and the petition on all social media platforms with the hashtag: #standwithnanhui.
Also, follow @standwithnanhui on Twitter for regular updates and live tweeting of her testimony in court.
4. SOCIAL MEDIA VISIBILITY
In addition to participating in the Twitter storm, please keep sharing Nan-Hui’s story, link to the petition, requests to call ICE on Fb and Twitter.
You can also join in on the Instagram campaign. Post a solidarity message of yourself and use hashtags #standwithnanhui and #not1more.
5. INVITE YOUR FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES
All of them. Yes, all of them.