Deaf immigrant jailed six weeks without access to interpreter, lawsuit says

Man was charged with stealing an iPad whose owner later found the device

A deaf immigrant claims he was jailed in Virginia for six weeks without access to an interpreter on charges that he stole an iPad, a device the owner later found.

Abreham Zemedagegehu has filed a lawsuit against Arlington County sheriff, saying his treatment did not meet the standards laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the New York Post.

Mr Zemedagegehu is from Ethiopia and does not read or write English very well, but he is fluent in American Sign Language. Still, it took six weeks before authorities gave him access to someone with whom he could communicate, the lawsuit alleges.

“I felt like I was losing my mind,” Mr Zemedagegehu said through an interpreter, the Post reported. “I thought Virginia would give me an interpreter and they said no. That’s why I felt lost.”

Mr Zemedagegehu, who is homeless, was arrested on 2 February at Reagan National Airport because authorities though he had stolen an iPad. He was not aware of the charges against him for two days, as he could not understand the officers or anyone throughout the booking process at the jail.

During booking, he was stuck with a needle – which he later learned was a tuberculosis test – even though he had no idea what was in the syringe.

It was six week later when Mr Zemedagegehu struck a plea deal he says was to get out of jail, not to accept guilt for the stolen iPad, which had since been found by its owner.

Officials at the Arlington County jail would not comment on the allegations, citing the pending litigation.

 

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