Thursday, August 9, 2007

Assign the interpreters, quick!

Mahamu D Kanneh, 23, of Gaithersburg MD was taken into custody Monday August 6 2007 in Philidelphia PA. Kanneh is the Liberian immigrant who avoided trial in July 2007 on child rape charges in Mongomery County ND because of the alleged difficulty in finding an interpreter for him.

Kanneh was arrested after he failed to attend a court hearing on Friday in which prosecutors were seeking to impose conditions on his release while they sought to appeal the previous ruling. In a motion filed last week, prosecutors had asked that a judge impose the same conditions that had been placed on Kanneh while he had been awaiting trial. Those conditions included that he be barred from having contact with children, be forced to surrender his passport and other travel documents, be issued an ankle bracelet to track his whereabouts and that he be barred from leaving the state without permission from the county's pretrial supervision agency.

Kanneh's defense attorney, Theresa Chemosky, had objected to the state's request, noting to the court that Kanneh had complied with the terms of his pretrial supervision program. She also noted that he had never tried to run away or been accused of leaving the area. Chemosky did state at Friday's hearing that she had been unable to contact her client and that he had not been notified of the hearing.

Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy Chief Darren Popkin stated that it appeared that Kanneh had packed up his belongings and moved to Philadelphia. He also added that when Philadelphia police officers arrived at the home where he was staying, Kanneh fled down the stairs and attempted to get out the back door.

Kanneh had been arrested in August 2004 after witnesses told police that he had raped and repeatedly sexually molested a 7 year-old female relative and that he had also fondled an 18 month-old girl. He had his trial date repeatedly postponed because of an alleged inability to find an interpreter who was fluent in Vai, his native dialect but his need for one had been disputed. Kanneh had attended high school and community college in Montgomery county and it would seem that he managed quite well there without the use of an interpreter.

Chemosky filed a motion that his rights to a speedy trial had been violated and on July 17, Montgomary County Circuit Court Judge Katherine Savage granted that motion and dismissed the case. At the moment, Kanneh is in custody and facing extradition and I can only hope that the courts will have the interpreters available for this legal battle.

Mike at the Lamplighter had two excellent posts, here and here, explaining the "farce" of Kanneh's case dismissal last month. This man was not charged with stealing a case of beer but of repeatedly molesting a 7 year-old and fondling an 18 month-old and I believe he should never have had the charges dismissed in the first place.

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