Alleged Child Rapist Goes Free Because Court Can’t Find Interpreter

Md. Judge Dismisses Sex-Abuse Charges

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 22, 2007

This is without a doubt one of the worst, if not THE worst case, that shows the quality or “lack of” in our judicial system to allow something as horrible as this to occur.  Not only did it allow this to occur but in my mind this may very well have set a precedent for anyone where English is not their native language. 

Washington Post – Full story 

A 7-year-old girl said she had been raped and repeatedly molested over the course of a year. Police in Montgomery County, acting on information from a relative, soon arrested a Liberian immigrant living in Gaithersburg. They marshaled witnesses and DNA evidence to prepare for trial.

What was missing — for much of the nearly three years that followed — was an interpreter fluent in the suspect’s native language. A judge recently dropped the charges, not because she found that Mahamu Kanneh had been wrongly accused but because repeated delays in the case had, in her view, violated his right to a speedy trial.

“This is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in a long time,” Katherine D. Savage said from the bench Tuesday, noting that she was mindful of “the gravity of this case and the community’s concern about offenses of this type.”

Loretta E. Knight, the Circuit Court clerk responsible for finding interpreters, said her office searched exhaustively for a speaker of Vai, a tribal language spoken in West Africa.

[Kanneh was granted asylum in the United States, according to State’s Attorney John McCarthy. A conviction could have led to deportation proceedings.]

[Kanneh was arrested in August 2004 after witnesses told police that he raped and repeatedly sexually molested the girl, a relative.

In a charging document, Detective Omar Hasan wrote that the girl “attempted to physically stop the behavior from the defendant, but was unsuccessful.” Hasan wrote that Kanneh threatened the young girl “with not being able to leave the apartment unless she engaged in sexual behavior with the defendant.”]                                                                                                          

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