Taiwan terrorism suspect waives right to hearing to have charge dropped

Taiwan terrorism suspect yesterday waived his right to a hearing in exchange for having the weapons charge dropped

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An Tso Sun after hearing. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- An Tso "Edward" Sun (孫安佐), the Taiwanese exchange student arrested in March for allegedly threatening to "shoot up" a private school in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, waived his right to a preliminary hearing yesterday (April 25) in exchange for having one of the charges against him dropped. 

Following the advice of his attorney, Robert C. Keller, Sun waived his right to a hearing and opted to go directly to his formal arraignment, which will be held on May 23. Keller and prosecutors are reportedly working on a plea bargaining agreement in which Sun will plea guilty to the charge of making a "terroristic threat" in exchange for prosecutors dropping the charge of possessing "instruments of crime."

At the preliminary hearing at a Pennsylvania court Wednesday morning local time, Sun arrived in handcuffs, and when Taiwanese journalists shouted questions at him, he replied that he only wanted to read comics, the Apple Daily reported.

Keller asserted that the charge of "instruments of crime" would be more difficult to prove because the possession of weapons in his home was not in itself a crime, the government must prove that they were going to be used for illegal and criminal purposes, reported UDN. Keller claims that the explanation for Sun's possession of a 9 mm handgun is that he "has always been an enthusiast of guns," reported CBS Philly

As for the 1,600 rounds of ammunition found to be in Sun's possession, Keller explains that his client "went to a shooting range with his family when they were here visiting and all those shells were purchased for weapons they were all collectively shooting at a firing range,”according to the CBS Philly report. 

However, Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood was not convinced, saying, "This kid’s got this ammunition and all the other materials for a reason, and if anybody tells me he went to the gun range and this is extra ammunition, they’re full of crap.”

He is being charged with making a "terroristic threat" after he told a classmate on March 26 that he would "shoot up" their school. However, he maintains that he immediately then said, "Haha, I'm just joking." His celebrity mother Di Ying (狄鶯) has also claimed that he was just telling a joke

Keller said that he is submitting an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) request for Sun, but prosecutors may not agree, according to the UDN report. The ARD program in Pennsylvania applies to non-violent offenders with no prior or limited record. 

The main purpose of the ARD program is to rehabilitate the offender, but it is also a means to expedite the issuing of charges, thus reducing costly, time-consuming trials and other court proceedings. Defendants who are accepted into the program must meet certain conditions, such as making restitution or completing a substance abuse treatment program. They are then placed under supervision similar to probation and may be asked to provide community service.