Jail

Deaf Man Spent Six Weeks In Jail For a Crime He Didn't Commit; Sheriff's Office Say It's OK Because There Wasn't Any 'Intentional Discrimination'

But does it matter what the excuse is for keeping him in jail six weeks if it was wrong?

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handspeak.com

Abreham Zemedagegehu, homeless U.S. citizen born in Ethiopia, spent six weeks in an Arlington county jail after being accused of stealing an iPad later found by the owner who lost it. But because Zemedagegehu only knew Ethiopian and American Sign Languages, and only rudimentary written English, the jailers could not communicate with him. When he lived in New York City, he was profiled by The New York Times, which noted cops sometimes got angry with him because they wouldn't realize he was deaf. He claims in a lawsuit against the county jail and the sheriff's office that he didn't even know why he had been jailed.

The Associated Press reports:

Maj. Susie Doyel, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, which runs the jail, declined to comment on the specific allegations. She generally defended the jail's ability to handle deaf inmates and others with disabilities, and said several deputies in the jail are proficient in sign language.

But she also acknowledged that communication with a deaf inmate is more problematic in cases where the inmate can't communicate in written English.

In court papers filed Monday, lawyers for the sheriff ask a judge to dismiss the case, arguing that even if Zemedagegehu's allegations are true, they fail to show intentional discrimination because they attempted various different ways to communicate with him, including handwritten notes.

And even if the discrimination were intentional, the lawyers write that it would not violate federal law because there is a rational basis for the discrimination: "it takes extra resources and creates additional security considerations to bring in an ASL [American Sign Language] interpreter," they write.

Of course if the jail has deputies who are proficient in sign language then it wouldn't need extra resources to bring in an interpreter, would it? Zemedagegehu  claims the jail violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in not providing him with an interpreter.

But, as The Washington Post's Radley Balko noted earlier this week, the important question about incident of police abuse—from the perspective of systemic reform—is whether the incident was necessary and acceptable and not just legal. It does appear the jail violated the ADA but anyone who's seen these kinds of cases before knows that's no guarantee the incident won't be found to have been within departmental policy. But when authorities hold a man for six weeks for a crime that's resolved it first, and insist they followed appropriate policies and procedures, isn't it time to change those policies and procedures?

h/t Barnstormer

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  1. Man serves 900 days in jail, though he didn’t commit a crime

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wir…..crime.html

  2. Innocence of the crime is no excuse. Obviously this man would not have treated his Masters with the required level of deference and obsequeiousness to warrant his release. The reasons he offered for that deficiency – deafness and Foreign-ness – are both obviously his fault and not those of the King’s Men.

  3. Again, someone detained or kept in jail for the crime of what the cops didn’t know –

    “We didn’t know who he was”
    “We didn’t know if he had any warrants”
    “Maybe he hadn’t stolen the iPad, but we couldn’t be sure he hadn’t stole something else”

  4. “What is justice here?”
    “Well, as long as we didn’t mean anything by it, it’s not a problem.”
    “You didn’t answer my question.”
    “I think I did. Are you sure you want to keep asking?”

  5. “Libertarianism is a crusade against problems we don’t have”

    Krugman

  6. Too bad that Arlington, VA must be about 10,000 miles away from the nearest Ethiopian embassy where an English translator may be found. Oh, wait….

  7. Look,they need to nip it in the bud.Anyone accused needs to cool their heels in the pokey. Hell,one guy didn’t understand that maybe drinking a beer at 20 years old can lead to a beat down .Don’t give me this crap about him being pissed ,or verbal.Stupid laws lead to cops acting like thugs for no reason.

    1. There is no such thing as a stupid law in the land of mercy I tell you, Mr Smith.

      1. You mean like being put on a most wanted list and shot for selling a few pills to a willing [cop] buyer,or selling loose cigs? Or being being slammed into the sidewalk because you may have wanted a beer at 20 because you went to school instead of joining the army and being given a automatic weapon? All laws are enforced with a gun.

      2. I know your comment was humor,this just pisses me off.

        1. I understand, bro. This shit pisses me off to no end also.

          1. Every day here

  8. When he lived in New York City, he was profiled by The New York Times, which noted cops sometimes got angry with him because wouldn’t realize he was deaf…. But when authorities hold a man for six weeks for a crime that’s resolved it first…

    Lucy back and doing copy editing?

    1. my question is how he hasn’t learned to avoid cops at all costs?!

  9. . But when authorities hold a man for six weeks for a crime that’s resolved it first, and insist they followed appropriate policies and procedures, isn’t it time to change those policies and procedures?

    The procedures for reviewing and altering procedures were followed. There is nothing to see here. Move along…..

    1. Did their own internal investigation resolve themselves of any wrongdoing?

      WHEW! That’s a relief.

      1. I have to go to court this afternoon on a BS ticket (rolling through a right turn at a stop sign at about 2 MPH). I so desperately want to tell the judge that I investigated myself and found I’d done nothing wrong. But somehow I don’t think it will work as well for me as it does for cops.

        1. It’s a sight crime,no harm,big fine.

  10. “When he lived in New York City, he was profiled by The New York Times, which noted cops sometimes got angry with him because wouldn’t realize he was deaf.

    Oh, they’re jailing me for no good reason, again?

    Looks like the deaf guy understood exactly what was going on. It was the cops who were totally confused.

    There’s the irony.

  11. Zemedagegehu’s public defender filed a motion after the guilty plea seeking to have the conviction overturned, saying prosecutors failed to turn over evidence that the man who claimed his iPad was stolen actually had found it some time before the guilty plea. Prosecutors deny withholding evidence.

    A judge refused to overturn the conviction, saying the appeal had been filed too late.

    FUCKING RAGE

  12. Whether he was discriminated against in jail seems to be beside the point. Why was he arrested for stealing something which was not in his possession and which clearly no one saw him steal?

  13. If he would just stop being deaf, this would not be a problem.

    1. He must enjoy BP checkpoints…

  14. Didn’t tend to? Oh well, I guess that’s too bad, since modern interpretations of anti-discrimination laws ignore actual intent and instead focus on effect, claiming that if you adversely affect the protected group, you are discriminating and breaking the law. See one example in Griggs v. Duke Power

    It’s a fucking stupid precedent, which is actually negated by further wordingin the Civil Rights Act where it specifies that skills and intelligence tests are NOT illegal, but if the rest of us have to follow these cockamamie judicial interpretations, then the fucking cops have to, too.

    Cockbags

  15. This article just reminds me of why people kill cops – they deserve it.

  16. “But when authorities hold a man for six weeks for a crime that’s resolved it first…”

    What?

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