The case against Nunu Sung caught media attention from day one. In what has become a media firestorm over the past few years speculation and hearsay has formed the basis of most reporting. You deserve to know, dear reader, there is much more to the story than what has been published. As someone who knows Nunu, it is my intention to speak up for Nunu—that her story may be heard and credibility given to her determined efforts throughout the past two years to be reunited with her son.
The facts of the case against Nunu Sung are as follows: Nunu hid her pregnancy from family and friends. In the middle of the night in Summer of 2009 she delivered a child in secret and placed him, covered, under a bush in the twilight. Shortly after his birth, neighbors found him, unharmed, and called the police. He was taken to a hospital where he was examined and determined to be healthy and in good condition.
When police came to Nunu’s door a few hours later, frightened, bloody and raw she denied having a baby. She was arrested for lying to police and detained for thirty days. Unfamiliar with our judicial process and speaking very little English, Nunu was neither provided with a lawyer nor an interpreter who spoke her native language during initial questioning sessions. As a result, she answered questions she did not understand, one relating to whether or not she wanted to keep her son. Please hear me, dear reader, when I say that what is being used as “evidence” to build a case against Nunu is fallacy. Nunu stated from the beginning to police, case workers at both D.C.F.S. and Evangelical Child & Family Agency, her intention and desire to keep her son. She showed genuine remorse for her actions, apologized for her mistake, and made it clear she wanted to keep her son.
Denied the opportunity to name her own son, hospital staff gave him the name Joshua—a name D.C.F.S. retained. Though Nunu has a personal name for him, she, along with the foster family caring for him continue to call him Joshua. Upon her release, Nunu, eager to be with her son, was not allowed any contact with him, neither was any member of her family, whose right to raise him as next-of-kin (Nunu’s preference to foster care), was dismissed by supervising case workers. Her son was taken from the hospital directly to a foster agency, Evangelical Child & Family Agency. He was placed in the home of a foster family with the intention of reuniting mother and child.
During the year that followed Nunu participated in supervised and solo visits with her son. Working full-time in a factory to afford provisions for her son, she used her earnings to purchase food, clothes, toys, diapers and other necessary items for his care and upbringing. Nunu met and exceeded every requirement set by the court and D.C.F.S. As the bond and relationship between Nunu and her son grew, her thoughts were consumed, as they had been from early on, with the day she would receive him. She appeared in court monthly to provide updates on her progress and demonstrated consistent growth in both parenting skills, ability to provide for her son’s needs, and notable evidence of relational development with her son.
In the Fall of 2010, Nunu Sung plead guilty in court before DuPage Circuit Court Judge Blanche Hill Fawell to the charge of lying to police. A plea agreement was arranged and approved by all parties involved, including then State’s Attorney, Joe Birkett, as well as supervisors in the criminal division (including now DuPage County State’s Attorney, Bob Berlin). The details of the plea agreement stipulated Nunu Sung’s parental rights would NOT be terminated if she agreed to complete a penal sentence. In the presence of all parties and witnesses involved (family, friends, the foster family, court reporter, the media, the prosecution team, defense lawyers, case workers from Evangelical Child & Family Agency, and Judge Fawell), Nunu willingly agreed to the terms. She received the maximum sentence—3 years.
Sung has spent the last year in a correctional facility in Illinois where she participated in classes, including parenting classes to continue developing her skills as a mother. So that her son will retain a connection to her and know how much she loves him, Nunu sends him cards and letters every week. Due to good behavior and attendance in educational classes, Nunu is eligible for release in January of 2012.
Here’s where it gets tricky. In August 2011, almost one full year after Nunu’s arraignment, the Guardian ad Litem, Kathleen Anderson, assigned to oversee her son’s case, filed a petition to terminate Nunu’s parental rights. Please know, dear reader, that representatives from Evangelical Child & Family Agency along with the foster family took part in communications with the state’s attorney’s office and prosecuting lawyers during the negotiation of the plea agreement and were aware of the “no termination” clause prior to Sung’s arraignment. On the day of sentencing, under the direction of Judge Fawell, each party involved affirmed their commitment and promise to NOT terminate Nunu’s parental rights. This included the entire prosecution team, the foster family, and all case workers involved.
Here’s where it gets a little unethical. Who, might you wonder, would willingly defend an injunction in direct violation of this (or any) plea agreement? What if I told you the lawyer defending the injunction, Augusta Clark, is doing so under the direction of DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin! In case you missed this, let me connect the dots for you … I’m referencing the same Bob Berlin who worked as a supervisor in the criminal division during Nunu’s court proceedings. My point is this, operating with full knowledge of the details of the plea agreement, Bob Berlin posed no objection to the term set forth in the plea agreement against terminating Sung’s parental rights. In his new role as State’s Attorney, Mr. Berlin is bound to uphold the integrity of all plea deals on file. By allowing a motion against Nunu’s parental rights to be filed, the prosecuting team reneged on the terms of the Plea Agreement. Through his actions to assist the Guardian ad Litem’s injunction to terminate Nunu Sung’s parental rights, Bob Berlin is directly violating the terms of the Plea Agreement.
Last time I checked, a Plea Agreement is a legally binding document, a judicial contract, a court’s promise to uphold the terms set forth in the plea arrangement as long as the defendant maintains the terms. Nunu Sung honored the terms. Any attempt to terminate Sung’s parental rights is a violation of the terms of the Plea Agreement. To deny Nunu the right to reunite with her son after her release is a violation of the terms of the Plea Agreement. To violate the terms of the Plea Agreement sets a very dangerous precedent against the integrity and stability of (every) future Plea Agreement. More than that, it is a legal and moral injustice to a mother who, for two years, consistently pursued action to gain custody of her child by accomplishing every task required of her by the court, D.C.F.S., the Evangelical Child & Family Agency, and the prosecution.
These are the facts in the case involving Nunu Sung. (The bare-bones facts.) What is missing from much of the reporting is the context. As one who calls myself a friend to Nunu Sung, I hope to provide in subsequent posts some background and a bit of Nunu’s story. I hope to inspire you to advocate in favor of a woman who consistently demonstrates devotion and love for her son. In an effort to spread the word and maintain support for Nunu Sung, I will call on your engagement in this issue with simple Action Steps.
What I want you to know, dear reader, is on Wednesday, October 19, Nunu Sung will stand before Judge C. Stanley Austin who will determine whether to support this injunction to terminate her parental rights. The justice system reneged on a promise, a legal contract, and turned its back on a mother fighting for the right to be with her son. A mother who has met and exceeded every requirement placed upon her by the court over the past two years with the promise of one day being reunited. That just doesn’t sit right with me, ethically, legally, or morally.
And so, I will speak up in support of Nunu Sung.
- Chicago Tribune Article, August 30, 2011
- ABC7 News, August 30, 2011
- A Call To Action on Behalf of Nunu Sung
To lend your voice and get involved as an advocate for Nunu Sung, please visit A Call To Action