Celebrity mom helping Taiwanese terrorism suspect get off with insanity defense

Lawyer says Taiwanese shooting plot suspect may return home by May after being found to be mentally ill

Di Ying (left), An Tso sun (center), and Sun Peng (right). (Di Ying FB page)

Di Ying (left), An Tso sun (center), and Sun Peng (right). (Di Ying FB page)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- An Tso "Edward" Sun (孫安佐), the Taiwanese exchange student arrested two weeks for allegedly threatening to go on a shooting rampage in a private school in Pennsylvania, may be able to avoid jail time after being diagnosed as suffering a mental illness and could return home as soon as May, and a Taiwanese lawyer familiar with the case is crediting his celebrity mother for expediting his apparent impending release.

On a Facebook post released yesterday (April 8), Taiwanese attorney Chiu Chang (邱彰) said:

"After the town's police completed a psychiatric assessment of An Tso Sun, it has been determined that he is mentally ill. The federal-level investigators said there is no time to translate the Chinese in Sun's computer and mobile phone into English. The National Security Agency (NSA) said the case is too small, the federal government will not take up the case and will leave it to local authorities instead."

On March 31, Sun's celebrity parents Di Ying (狄鶯), a Taiwanese opera singer, and Sun Peng (孫鵬), an actor, landed in the U.S. to mount a defense for their son. Di has maintained that her son was "just kidding" when he told a classmate that he was going to "shoot up" their school in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.

Chiu told Apple Daily that her assistant was a 16-year-old friend of Sun and that she had originally planned on gaining access to Sun's computer to find favorable evidence for his defense, however she said:

"There is no need for it now, because Di has already taken care of everything. U.S. law has two levels, one is state law, the other is federal. Because Sun is an international student, the police originally wanted to have the NSA intervene, later there were some actions taken, and the NSA decided that they are too busy to handle it, so the case has been left with local authorities. This is beneficial to Sun, as according to state law, the maximum penalty for terrorist threats is less than one year in prison. If it was taken up by federal prosecutors, the penalty would have been 10 years, so that's a huge difference."

Chiu agreed with talk show host Jacky Wu's assertion on Saturday that Sun would be allowed to return to Taiwan by as soon as the end of May. "Wu must have been in contact with them (Sun's parents). Otherwise he would not have said this. The time frame is similar to my estimation, because there are still some procedures that need to be completed," said Chiu.

Chiu believes that Sun will be returned to Taiwan in the end, "Right now it just depends on how long the procedures take, maybe at the hearing on April 25 the court decides to go ahead and send him back to Taiwan. As for how Di later educates her child, that's a family matter, it's not my business."

On Monday, the 18-year-old An Tso Sun allegedly warned a 17-year-old classmate not to attend class at Bonner and Prendergast Catholic High School on May 1, as he said he "was going to shoot up the school" that day, according to police. The classmate then notified a school social worker, school authorities notified the police and An Tso Sun was arrested a 9:38 a.m. the next morning after allowing a detective to question him.

A search of his living quarters turned up a garrote, a crossbow, a ballistic vest and ammunition, but no gun. Police said he had been searching online for information on how to buy an AK-47 assault rifle or an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle.

In a statement released to the media on March 30, Sun Peng (孫鵬) apologized on behalf of him and his wife, and said the couple would accompany their son and only child to face the legal process in the United States. Sun said that their son's troubles have caused a lot of concern from all walks of life and expended a lot of social resources to report on the incident, "We feel very sorry."

On April 2, Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood revealed more evidence that they have discovered in a black bag which contained ammunition for an AR-15, AK-47 and an untraceable handgun Sun had assembled.

After the additional evidence had been discovered last week, Chiu had told Apple Daily that Sun could face up to 10 years in jail. "If it is really identified as a crime involving transnational or intercontinental terrorist attacks under federal law, Sun is likely to be sentenced to 10 years," said Chiu on April 3.

However, it now appears that the result of Sun's psychiatric assessment and the small scale of the crime apparently has convinced federal authorities to drop the case.