According to a lawsuit filed by Timothy Siaki, he was cuffed and forced to the floor by Adams County deputies because he wasn't responding to verbal commands -- which isn't all that surprising, given that he's deaf. There's much more in the suit, filed against Sheriff Douglas Darr on behalf of the county as a whole. Reading the copy below will help you understand why Adams has settled for $100,000 -- and that's not all.
The suit notes that Siaki and his girlfriend, Kimberlee Moore, who's also deaf (she's listed as a fellow plaintiff, along with two other individuals and two nonprofits, including the Colorado Association of the Deaf), were at a Super 8 Motel on Broadway in May 2010 when they got into an argument.
Both deny that Siaki hurt Moore, yet deputies were dispatched to the scene, with one breaking open the door to their room -- no doubt because Siaki and Moore couldn't hear them demanding entry. A deputy then ordered Siaki to the floor, but because of his condition and his inability to read lips, he didn't understand. He tried pointing to his ears and shaking his head to indicate he was deaf, but the deputy grabbed his arm and forced him to the floor "because he believed Mr. Siaki was not complying with his orders," the lawsuit contends. Siaki was also handcuffed, making it impossible for him to use sign language -- and since he's said to be incapable of reading or writing effectively, a subsequent order that he write a statement was also a flop.
Moore has similar difficulty writing in English, making an edict that she pen a statement a problem, too. She tried to communicate that Siaki hadn't hit her, but the deputy interpreted the opposite, then thought she'd changed her story, the lawsuit maintains.
At the station, no accommodations were made to insure that Siaki understood the reading of his Miranda rights (he didn't) or any other part of the processing. And the situation remained the same for the next 25 days, after which he was finally released from custody -- because all the charges against him had been dropped.
Yesterday, Adams County learned how much this series of gaffes would cost: $100,000 paid to the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition Legal Program, says 7News, plus another $75,000 to cover attorneys fees, costs and damages to the plaintiffs, adds the Denver Post.
But Judge John Kane also ordered systemic changes, the Post notes. Adams County must provide access to sign language interpreters for deaf arrestees, as well as create an orientation video and install deaf-friendly video phones.
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That's the sort of message anyone can understand. Here's the amended lawsuit, filed in January 2012.
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