Saturday, August 13, 2011
Nunu Sung fights for custody of baby she abandoned
The imprisoned mother of a 2-year-old boy named Joshua is fighting for custody of the child she left whimpering in a neighbor's yard in Wheaton shortly after his birth.
Nunu Sung, 26, is due to be paroled in January after serving part of a three-year prison term for lying to police about her pregnancy.
Sung pleaded guilty in October 2010 to felony obstruction of justice. In exchange, prosecutors dropped a charge of endangering the life of a child and agreed they would not seek to terminate the woman's parental rights.
On Wednesday, DuPage County Circuit Judge Blanche Hill Fawell denied a request by Sung's attorneys to find prosecutors in contempt because they now are involved in terminating Sung's parental rights in favor of a Wheaton couple who are the child's foster parents.
Fawell said prosecutors may have erred in making the promise but they were legally obligated to get involved in the parental termination proceedings. Sung's only option now is to file a post-conviction request to reopen her plea and sentence, the judge said.
Sung, of Myanmar, has drawn support from family members and a Wheaton church attended by other immigrants from that Southeast Asian country formerly known as Burma. Supporters say she escaped the war-torn nation after Catholic Charities brought her to the United States about three years before Joshua was born.
Her attorneys said authorities have not allowed Sung to see Joshua since she was sent to prison in 2010.
"She came here to escape the injustices of a corrupt government, and she ends up falling victim to the injustice of not being given the full benefit of her plea agreement," said Jennifer Wiesner, one of her lawyers. "Her main priority always has been that her parental rights not be terminated."
The Wheaton foster parents declined to comment, but their attorney, Chuck Rohde, said they simply want what is best for Joshua.
In recent juvenile court proceedings, a civil attorney appointed by the judge as Joshua's guardian filed paperwork to terminate Sung's parental rights based largely on the crime.
The ruling came two months after DuPage Associate Judge C. Stanley Austin ruled the goal of the civil proceedings should no longer be to reunite mother and child. Rather, it should be to place the child in substitute care pending termination of Sung's parental rights, the judge said.
Austin has not ruled on the parental termination petition, but during a July hearing he denied Sung's request to dismiss it.
In June 2009 a Wheaton man noticed the newborn with its umbilical cord still attached after his dog spotted the child under a tree and barked.
Prosecutors alleged the child might have died if he hadn't been discovered that morning.
"The baby, who was left outside on the cold, hard ground, had a body temperature in the low 80s and was hypothermic," Assistant State's Attorney Anne Therieau wrote earlier this year in court records. "But for a dog, who was let out in the morning hours, this baby would have died."
After his release from the hospital, Joshua was placed in the custody of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Prosecutors said Sung relocated from Texas to Wheaton to live with cousins after the child's father said he had no interest in helping to raise him.
Sung's attorneys said she hid her pregnancy because she was afraid she would be punished and scorned by her family and other community members.
Immigration officials are expected to interview Sung after her release from prison. Her attorneys are investigating their legal options if she faces a deportation fight.