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Court Unable To Arraign Deaf Man

February 6, 2007

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


For The Patriot-News

WILLIAMSPORT – Federal court officials are trying to find a way to communicate with a defendant who claims to be deaf, unable to speak and to understand only Spanish.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Malachy E. Mannion tried unsuccessfully last week to arraign Reinaldo Santiago Padilla, 34, of West Milton, on charges that allege Padilla was part of a drug distribution ring.

Mannion continued the hearing, rather than entering a not guilty plea on Padilla’s behalf, after neither a Spanish interpreter nor a friend using self-taught sign language could get Padilla to understand questions.

Padilla and 14 others were indicted last month on charges that allege they distributed cocaine, heroin and marijuana in Columbia, Montour, Northumberland and Snyder counties over three years beginning in January 2004. Last week’s arraignment was on a superseding indictment that adds allegations to the earlier indictment.

During his initial arraignment, Padilla answered enough questions after he was fitted with two hearing aids to enter a not guilty plea.

Last week, despite wearing the hearing aids and help from the interpreter, Padilla indicated he could not understand what he was being asked concerning the superseding indictment.

It might take a team of people who sign in Spanish, speak Spanish and sign in English, to resolve the problem, said Thomas Miller, clerk in the Middle District’s Williamsport office.

The others indicted, several of whom also needed an interpreter, entered not guilty pleas Tuesday.