by Lauren King
Nan-Hui Jo’s sentencing hearing took place on the afternoon of April 28, 2015, at the Yolo County Superior Courthouse, to much public fanfare. Supporters of Ms. Jo, as well as members of the media, filled the courtroom to capacity as they waited to hear what the defendant’s future would hold. To the dissatisfaction of both counsel, Judge David Rosenberg denied defense counsel Dennis Riordan’s motion for a new trial and reduced the felony charge against Ms. Jo to a misdemeanor.
Ms. Jo was sentenced to three years’ summary probation and 175 days in jail, which is time served. The defendant was released from jail and into the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
It is yet to be decided whether she will released on bail during the immigration proceedings. After the hearing was adjourned, media and supporters of Ms. Jo congregated on the courthouse steps to listen to the statements of Mr. Riordan and those of the political advocates in attendance.
Mr. Riordan was first to give a statement to the crowd, and communicated his belief that Judge Rosenberg was wrong to deny the motion, that he gave an incorrect instruction to the jury during Ms. Jo’s trial, and that the guilty verdict would certainly be overturned should it be heard at the appellate level.
According to Mr. Riordan, “He [Judge Rosenberg] is dead wrong on the law in this case. Interestingly enough, in sentencing, he made absolutely explicit that he had committed error under controlling Supreme Court law. Hold me to it: this conviction will never stand, this conviction will be reversed, and an appellate court will express incredulity that a judge in Yolo County could commit the very same error that the Supreme Court found had been committed in another Yolo County case nine years ago.
“This conviction is illegal and will be reversed. That won’t save Ms. Jo from serving her sentence because she has already done that, but she will be freed of the label of felon and obviously that will be a very good thing for daughter, father, and mother.”
After Mr. Riordan concluded his post-hearing statement, a brief community press conference was held by political advocates affiliated with the Asian Law Caucus. The organizer of the “Stand with Nan-Hui” support committee from Oakland, California, was the first to speak. The “Stand with Nan-Hui” campaign is a now-national organization that has roots in Oakland, the Sacramento area, Los Angeles and New York.
“We will still continue to fight for justice because she [Nan-Hui Jo] is still at risk of being detained and deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Our ultimate goal is our freedom for Nan-Hui Jo and the reunification of her and her daughter. Like so many other survivors of domestic violence, Nan-Hui Jo has not only been abused by her partner, but has been relentlessly pursued by the criminal justice system as a criminalized survivor…This trial has been a mess of victim-blaming, anti-immigrant, and sexist rhetoric from start to finish,” stated the campaign organizer.
The next speaker was Ms. Angela Chan, the Policy Director and Senior Staff Attorney for Criminal Justice Reform at the Asian Law Caucus. “Our criminal justice system creates a two-tier system that treats immigrants differently than other community members. As many of you know, Nan-Hui is not only being criminalized by the criminal legal system, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has placed an immigration hold on Nan-Hui requesting her transfer into immigration custody.
“As federal courts found last year, these holds are unconstitutional because they are not based on probable cause and are not signed by the judge. Despite these facts, ICE continues to issue unlawful immigration holds, waste local resources, and undermine community policing. For too long ICE has been in the business of separating families, such as Nan-Hui’s family. Since the beginning of the Obama administration, ICE has deported over two million people. We must continue to push back and protect immigrants, including Nan-Hui, from an unjust immigration system and an unjust criminal system. We want to stand up here today and say, ‘Not one more.’”
The third speaker was Beverly Upton, the Executive Director of the San Francisco Domestic Violence Consortium. “I think our country is struggling with immigration, veteran’s affairs, parental rights, and marriage and relationships of all types. I think our country is in crisis and confused, but this courthouse, in this case, on this small mother and child’s shoulders, is criminal. We should not be trying to work out our nation’s policy stakes on this family, on this mother, and on this child.
“Everything that has been woven throughout this case should be decided on a much larger stage, not the stage of Yolo County and certainly not the shoulders of Nan-Hui and her child. I only hope that this case gains momentum and that people, not only in this country, but around the world, rally to protect these thousands of families that are affected by these terrible policies. We had a fairly good outcome today, but she is not out of danger yet and neither is her daughter. Let’s stand behind her, thank you.”
The community organizer at ASPIRE, associated with the Asian Law Caucus, was last to speak during the afternoon press conference. “We are calling for justice for Nan-Hui, her daughter, all the survivors of domestic violence, the survivors of the anti-immigrant status-quo…As the first undocumented API youth like group in the country, representing the undocumented API communities, representing our mothers, our sisters, our friends (anyone of them that could be Nan-Hui)— we stand in solidarity…We stand against the system that separates families and destroys communities. We stand with Nan-Hui…and we won’t stop until there is justice and until Nan-Hui is reunited with her daughter permanently.”
The press conference agenda was concluded and the floor was opened up for audience questions. The passion and numbers present for Nan-Hui Jo’s hearing this afternoon was impressive and may have had an effect on Judge Rosenberg’s final decision regarding sentencing. More information, if available, will be reported by the Vanguard at the earliest convenience.