Going Back To Prison, Jenny Hou Tries To Be Strong

Jenny Hou (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

Jenny Hou (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

Jenny Hou, the treasurer of former Comptroller John Liu’s mayoral campaign in 2013 who was charged and convicted after irregularities found in the campaign’s fundraising, is going back to prison. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld her conviction in January. And Hou, who had served a month before she was released, has to go back to federal prison before March 8 to finish the nine months left in her sentence. Also as a noncitizen, Hou may be facing unpredictable immigration troubles afterward. But in an interview on Feb. 29, she still said she is not afraid.

“Life is tough, but so are you.” This is the signature line Hou posted on her blog in January before she appeared in court to ask that her conviction be overturned, a line that reveals her enduring strength in the face of [what she believes to be] unfairness and misunderstanding.

Hou said she was battered by the decision of the appeals court. For a while after that, she was disappointed with this country and even thought to give up. She said it had been two years since she was released in January 2014 after her appeal case was accepted by the court. As time passed, life seemed to have gone back to normal at least on the surface. When she was full of confidence about the result of the appeal, the court suddenly decided to uphold the conviction within 30 days of the hearing.

Hou said the moment when she learned the result, she was angry, outraged, and then felt lost and disappointed. But there was nothing she could do to change the result. Because of the court’s decision, Hou and her boyfriend had to cancel their wedding slated for June. Hou said since she got into legal trouble, her boyfriend and his family have been very supportive. She and her boyfriend had registered at the end of 2014 and were hoping to have their big wedding in June double as a celebration party for the possible overturn of her conviction. They had printed the invitations for family and friends. Now the wedding has been indefinitely postponed.

Hou’s grandparents, who live in China, are both octogenarian and frail. They had been waiting for the day when she is given back her innocent name and were planning to come to the U.S. for her wedding. Now she may not be able to see them for a long while. Talking about this, Hou could no longer hold back her tears. Her voice broke a few times.

Hou said no matter how harsh life is to her and how much unfairness she gets, she always tries to be strong in front of her parents. Sometimes when it was too hard to do so, she would go back to her own home and cry on the shoulder of her boyfriend.

At times, Hou thought of giving up. But when she saw tens of thousands of Chinese gathered together on Feb. 20 to fight for police officer Peter Liang and fight against the unfairness in the judicial system, Hou said the hope in her heart was rekindled. Hou said Liang and she have both encountered unfairness in the judicial system. Now so many Chinese Americans stand up united to make their voices heard. She was very touched. This also helped her reaffirm her decision to keep working to help Chinese participate in politics in the future.

The court requires Hou to go back to the Federal Correctional Institution Hazelton in West Virginia, where she was incarcerated before, no later than March 8. Hou said when she was there last time, other inmates who knew she was bilingual suggested she use her language skills to do some good. This time when she goes back, Hou said she might propose to offer a Chinese class to the inmates. Talking about her upcoming life in prison, Hou smiled bitterly and said she’s lucky because she is going back to a familiar facility.

Hou was arrested in February 2012 and charged with attempted wire fraud, obstructing justice and making false statements. The trial started in April 2013. A month later she was convicted of all the charges.

U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan sentenced Hou to 10 months in prison. She went to prison in December 2013 and was released a month later by the appeals court. Gerald Lefcourt, the attorney representing Hou in the appeal, asked the court to overturn her conviction on Jan. 6, arguing prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence. The court decided on Jan. 25 to uphold the conviction.

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