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Colorado Jail Settles Suit over Lack of Accommodation for the Deaf for $100,000

Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC), a Colorado non-profit organization, filed a civil complaint against Douglas Darr, in his official capacity as Sherriff of Adams County, Colorado for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 USC § 12101, et seq., Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 USC § 794, et Seq. CCDC alleged that Adams County Sheriff Office (ACSO) has a policy, practice or custom of not providing a sign language interpreter or other appropriate auxiliary aids and services during interrogation, booking, medical questioning, counseling programs and detention.

Kimberlee Moore returned to her Super 8 motel room late in the evening of May 14, 2010. Timothy Siaki also resided there does not speak, read, or write in neither English nor does he read lips. Moore has a very limited ability to speak, read, and write English. She can sometimes read lips of a familiar speaker and speech patterns. Both are members of CCDC. Witnesses reported an argument. Witnesses' statements were conflicting about the argument because Moore and Siaki communicate by using American Sign. Both verbalize sounds which, to non-deaf person or someone unfamiliar, may sound like the deaf person is speaking loudly or abruptly.

ACSO Deputy Jaime Keefer and Christopher Eye arrived and broke down the door to Moore and Siaki's room. With their gun drawn, they ordered Siaki to the floor. Being deaf, Siaki was unable to understand the Deputies' command. Keefer grabbed his left arm and forced him to the floor then handcuffed him. Though Keefer knew Siaki was deaf, he assumed Siaki understood him and refused to comply with his orders. In the meantime, Deputy Eye had taken Moore from the room. She was not offered or provided auxiliary aids or services.

Siaki repeatedly attempted to communicate that he did not read, write, speak, or understand English. He needed a qualified sign language--interpreter but the deputies failed to offer or provide auxiliary aids or services. Due to his disability, Siaki was unable to write his version on the statement. Keefer, on the other hand, wrote in his Affidavit in Support of Warrantless Arrest that Siaki refused to write a statement and that Siaki had hit Moore.

When the paramedics arrived, Moore wanted to communicate that Siaki did not hit her. Instead Deputy Eye reported to Keefer that Siaki had hit Moore in the mouth. Siaki was placed under arrest. Later Eye wrote in an Incident/Investigation Report that Siaki did not hit her but tried to catch her by the neck/jaw when she tripped. Keefer filled out a Domestic Violence Case Summary which said that Siaki had hit her with his hand, pushed her, and shoved her, and that she did not need an interpreter. Keefer directed Moore to sign the form. She signed without fully understanding the form.

While at the Adams County substation, Siaki was not offered or provided auxiliary aids or services. When Keefer gave the Miranda Rights form in English, he did not know the reason for his arrest. Keefer directed him to sign the form anyway. Siaki was then transported to Adams County Detention Facility. He repeatedly asked for a sign language interpreter but his requests went unanswered. Siaki had access to a telephone but unable to use it without the access to a telecommunication device for the deaf.

Moore called the Adams County for inmate information using the internet-based relay system, MY IPRelay. She made it clear she was deaf. She inquired about Siaki's charge, whereabouts, and whether there was a bond. Adams County Detention Specialist Megan Moore informed her of the court appearance day but neglected to tell her that an automatic restraining order had been enacted to keep her from contacting Siaki.

At the Adams County Jail medical intake, Siaki was unable to understand the interviewer and the forms he was given. He again requested a sign language interpreter but ACSO deputies and staffed failed to offer or provide auxiliary aids or services. He was handed an inmate handbook in English instead. Twenty-five days later at a prehearing, Siaki was still not offered or provided auxiliary aids or services.

On September 26, 2012 ACSO settled by agreeing to: pay $100,000 to CCDC legal program; institute a 2-3 hour mandatory training session conducted by an organization with experience to detect presence of Auditory Disabilities and to implement appropriate measure to address the type of Auxiliary Aids and services; revise its sign language DVD to instruct on the requirement that interpreters be available throughout the booking process; revise its handbooks to reflect this process and show video of the handbook. ACSO also agreed to purchase a videophone for use at Adams County Detention Facility and update Post Orders, the Inmate Handbook and DVDs explaining how deaf inmates can request the use of the videophone. ACSO will verify and monitor compliance of the agreement and maintain a compliance log to be available for inspections. The ACSO will collaborate with CCDC as needed for systematic and individual inmate issues.

Violations of agreement can result in penalties which range from $1,000-$5,000 plus attorney's fees and litigation costs and expenses. CCDC attorneys Kevin W. Williams and Andrew C. Montoya represented the plaintiffs in the filing of the complaint and its settlement. See: Siaki v. Darr, U.S.D.C. (D. Colo), Case No.: 11-CV-03074-JLK-BNB.

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Related legal case

Siaki v. Darr