Father Testifies in Kidnapping Trial

photo by Lauren King, Court Watch Intern
photo by Lauren King, Court Watch Intern

By Jackie Snyder and Makisha Singh

The trial of Nan-Hui Jo resumed at 9 a.m. on February 23, 2015. The courtroom was packed with people who came to show their support for Ms. Jo. Jesse Charlton, the father of Ms. Jo’s biological child, was the first witness called to the stand, continuing his testimony from February 20, 2015. Deputy District Attorney Steven Mount continued his direct examination of Mr. Charlton, asking him questions about what efforts he made to locate his child after Ms. Jo and the child left to Korea. Mr. Charlton stated he had made contact with different state departments such as the Child Abduction Unit, and he had sent several emails to Ms. Jo, the majority of which received no reply.

DDA Mount presented several of the emails Mr. Charlton had sent to Ms. Jo in an effort to make contact. The content of the emails consisted of Mr. Charlton claiming how much he missed his child and how much he was hurt by not being able to watch his child mature and grow. Most of the emails sent to Ms. Jo by Mr. Charlton began cordially. Mr. Charlton would often praise Ms. Jo as a mother and even apologize for his own shortcomings. However, as time went on with no response from Ms. Jo, the emails became less civil.

Mr. Charlton testified that Ms. Jo failed to appear for court on November 9, 2009. The matter was scheduled for a later date, however, Ms. Jo was absent for court once again. Mr. Charlton continued emailing Ms. Jo. Around January 26, 2010, Mr. Charlton was informed that Ms. Jo was cooperating with the Yolo County District Attorney. This made Mr. Charlton hopeful and, in an email to Ms. Jo, he apologized for getting the courts involved but explained it was because he wanted to see his child.

Mr. Charlton testified that, for the majority of his child’s life, he did pay child support. He stated he felt as though the child support was a possible one-way communication device with the child, and this made him feel good. Mr. Charlton did admit that there was a period of time when he was not able to make his child support payments, due to eligibility problems with the GI Bill, which was his normal means of obtaining funds.

In March of 2013, Mr. Charlton was informed that Ms. Jo made the decision to come back to the United States. Ms Jo. and the child made plans to fly into Hawaii. Mr. Charlton booked a flight to Hawaii and, upon Ms. Jo’s arrival, she was promptly arrested. Before Mr. Charlton was reunited with his child he was required to meet with a bilingual therapist, and he was informed this would be necessary because his child only spoke Korean. Mr. Charlton was also urged to shave his beard so not to frighten the child. Once Mr. Charlton brought the child back to his home, he testified, the child had a difficult time adjusting. The child would often ask about her mother and did not fully understand what was taking place.

Mr. Charlton and the child continue to see a bilingual therapist once a week, which he feels is extremely beneficial. He testified that he enrolled the child in first grade at an English-speaking school, however, he encourages her to keep up with the Korean language. Mr. Charlton states she does this by watching the Korean cartoon, “Pororo.”

During Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson’s cross-examination of Mr. Charlton, DPD Johansson inquired into Mr. Charlton’s career in the army. Mr. Charlton admitted to enrolling in the army to avoid the consequences of an earlier altercation with a police officer in Davis. During his time in the army, Mr. Charlton claimed he suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and, upon exiting the army, in 2006, he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Mr. Charlton was placed on 7 percent disability due to this.

After a short recess, court was back in session. Judge Rosenberg asked that a different witness, who had recently flown in, testify and that DPD Johansson continue his cross-examination of Mr. Charlton upon completion of the new witness’ testimony.

The witness called to the stand was a  friend of Ms Jo. They both lived in Korea at one time and attended the same high school. She had been subpoenaed by the District Attorney’s Office. She testified that Ms. Jo had contacted her and asked if she would provide Ms. Jo with transportation to the airport. Ms. J0 told her she was moving back to Korea. The witness agreed but was surprised when Ms. Jo showed up at her door with a baby. When she asked who the child was, Ms. Jo claimed it was her child from her ex-husband in Korea.

The witness stated that Ms. Jo stayed approximately two days at her home before she drove Ms. Jo and the child to the airport. Before leaving for Korea, Ms. Jo gave the witness a bank card and asked her (the witness) to withdraw some money at a later time and then deposit the money in a different account. The witness agreed because they were friends and she wanted to help Ms. Jo out. The witness testified that, because Ms Jo’s name was on the card, she did not believe she was doing anything wrong.

When asked if the witness had ever told investigators Ms. Jo looked like she was running away from someone (during the time Ms. Jo went to her for help), she claimed she had not. The witness was then excused and Mr. Charlton was called once again to testify.

Mr. Johansson continued to question Mr. Charlton about his career in the army. Mr. Charlton stated he did not work after leaving the army because the GI Bill covered his expenses. His eligibility for the GI Bill was dependent on whether he was enrolled in school and, because Mr. Charlton was going to Sacramento City College full time, he received his full benefits from the GI Bill. Sacramento City College is where he met Ms. Jo. They were both enrolled in a photography course and developed a friendship which later turned romantic.

Mr. Charlton admitted that, when Ms. Jo claimed to be pregnant with his child, he became worried. He stated that he and Ms. Jo had a difficult relationship with multiple breakups and he was concerned about their ability to raise a child together.

Their child was born in 2008, during a break in their relationship. Ms. Jo filed for child support a few months after the birth of the child. Mr. Charlton admitted he was not completely invested in supporting his child because he never saw Ms. Jo or the child. However, once he met his child he stated the child had his total support.

Mr. Charlton testified that once he was back in the lives of Ms. Jo and their child, the couple moved back in together, and, while everything was fine between them for awhile, their relationship hit a rough patch once again. Court was then dismissed for lunch and was set to reconvene at 1:30 p.m. in Department 4.


Following the afternoon break, Mr. Dean Johansson called Jesse Charlton, the father of the allegedly abducted child, back to the witness stand to continue examination.  The courtroom was still packed with supporters of the mother, Nan Jo.

Charlton stated that when he went to Korea, he was there for two to three weeks. According to him, Jo wanted him to buy a home with the VA home loan he would receive and she gave him about $1,000 to pay off old parking tickets in order to build his credit so they could buy a home. When asked if he remembered Jo ever going to church, he said no because they were not religious, and he thought it was strange the church had given her a car.

 Charlton admitted to one incident of domestic violence, which was the incident where he grabbed her by the throat and threw her up against the wall after she supposedly threw the baby at him. When Johansson questioned him about this incident, Charlton vehemently denied that it was just a “hand off” of the baby. He began to raise his voice at this point and was visibly upset. He claimed that he wouldn’t have “freaked out if it was just a hand off.” He also added that he did not believe Jo meant to do it either, but that it was just in the heat of the argument. He justified his reaction by claiming that the toss hurt his chin and the baby was crying and, considering infants’ soft heads, he imagined it hurt her too.

It was revealed that when Jo finally responded to Charlton by email, she told him they were doing well and were in New Zealand and then proceeded to ask Charlton for money to pay for a storage fee. Charlton said they weren’t in New Zealand, indicating that Jo lied about their location. Charlton also refused to give her any money because she would not send him a picture of their child.

The witness was then asked about someone named Kelly, an army friend of Charlton’s. Kelly was a bounty hunter whose job was to hunt and kill people. Charlton admitted they were both in the army for a long time and they both killed people, which he said was horrible. In an email to Jo, Charlton told her he would send bounty hunters to find her. He knew this would elicit fear from her because she had heard some of Kelly’s stories in which he described his jobs. Charlton admitted he was being mean and intended to scare her.

Next, Charlton was asked about an incident where Charlton’s father had Child Protective Services called on him. Charlton claimed that the incident occurred after he got his daughter back, wand that she would have frequent panic attacks due to being separated from her mother. He said on one occasion his father attempted to calm the child down in a bear hug and the child hyperventilated and choked. Child Protective Services was called when the child later told her maternal grandmother of the incident over the phone. Charlton said he kept ties to her Korean family open.

Following the afternoon recess, witness Jenny Carillo, Charlton’s stepmother, was called to the stand. Carillo explained that the couple, Charlton and Jo, stayed with them occasionally when they were in southern California and that Jo emailed Carillo asking if she could stay with her for a week so she could tend to business in Los Angeles. Jo only stayed for two days, during which time she expressed her concern for Charlton’s drinking and his viewing of pornography. After Jo left their residence, they remained in contact via email and Carillo warned Jo what would happen if she avoided the “legal stuff” and tried to leave the country.

The next witness, Barbara Enriquez, a Deputy District Attorney for the first trial, was called to the stand as an expert witness and explained that in the state of California both parents automatically have an equal right to the child and that the court is the only body that can change rights to the child.

The afternoon session ended with Judge Rosenberg instructing the jury to meet at 8:55 a.m. the following morning, February 24, 2015.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch puts 8 to 12 interns into the Yolo County House to monitor and report on what happens. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org

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13 thoughts on “Father Testifies in Kidnapping Trial”

  1. Davis Progressive

    i’ll make the same comment i made yesterday: it will be interesting to see how the facts come out here.  i’d be shocked if this trial ends much differently from the first.  i think this is largely a waste of time.  they need to figure out the custody issue and move on.  i don’t really understand why every case like this in this county becomes a criminal matter.

      1. Davis Progressive

        was this a child abduction?  it’s not clear.  it is also very clear that the jury was completely split.  and the most likely punishment if she’s found guilty at this point – a big if – is time served.  and the father even said that he thought she was a good mother, he didn’t want her to be taken away from the child, and he only got involved in this because he wanted parental rights – all of that leads to my conclusion that this is a civil matter.  she made a huge mistake out of fear or uncertainty or language barrier or all of the above, but i’m far from convinced this should be a criminal matter at this point.

  2. Tia Will

    What strikes me most here is the seemingly obliviousness of our system to what is best for the child.

    We have the father making the following statements/admissions:

    1. His opinion that the mother is a “good mother”

    2. He argued for the termination of the pregnancy or adoption. If he had gotten his way then, there would have been no child over which to fight.

    3. He was not consistent in financially supporting the child.

    4. He was not consistent in contributing to the well being, financially or emotionally of his family.

    5. He admits to one instance of physical abuse of the mother, and had CPS contacted in at least one other instance and admits to difficulty in controlling his temper. Where is the guarantee that he will not lash our again if angry or upset.

    6. His statement is that he pursued the issue not because he feared for the welfare of the child, but because he “missed” her. So the entirely of his claim is based on his desire to be in contact with his child for his own self gratification, not on any perceived need of hers.

    Where exactly is the legal standing, the rights  and the needs of the child in all of this ?

    1. sisterhood

      I agree but the mom is at fault, too. She ignored several court orders to appear. She did not cooperate even when she was assured they would not tell the dad of her whereabouts. I believe the dad should complete anger management and perhaps have supervised visitation, because it’s in the best interest of the child to know both her mom and dad. I have to wonder, I’m sorry to say, if the mom had the child partly for monetary reasons or citizenship reasons. She seems to be a little bit manipulative. Not to say the dad is a saint. I believe Social Services should be involved with this family for some time.

      1. David Greenwald

        “She ignored several court orders to appear.”

        That’s not completely clear. Family court doesn’t work like other courts, it looks like from today’s story that the father claims he verbally told her. In other courts, that would not be a valid proof of service, apparently it works in Family Court, but it does create some question.

    2. Davis Progressive

      what’s interesting is you are citing the chief problems seen with the family court system coming out in the criminal system.  rarely are the needs of the child weighed into it.

  3. jdawn83

    He was allowed to verbally tell her of the court date because, from my understanding, it was an “emergency hearing.” Normally that would not fly. She would of had to be served by a third party and have it placed in her hand. I believe the other POS was served regularly, by a third party, and if that was the case then she did ignore the court order.
    Also it does not matter if he asked her to have an adoption or an abortion or has other issues. He is the father and he has rights, at least in the eyes of the law.

    1. David Greenwald

      It matters in one sense – the state of the mind of the mother. The issue at question is not whether she illegally took the baby, but rather whether she did so with malice intentions.

  4. Barack Palin

    I came so close to possibly sitting on this jury.  Hundreds of us were called in last week to where people were sitting and standing everywhere in the courthouse.  I ended up almost on another jury, was one of the very last cuts.

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