Michael Kiefer, Arizona Republic (Phoenix), May. 11, 2010
A Liberian couple charged with seven counts of felony child abuse were ordered released from jail Monday because the court cannot find interpreters who speak their languages.
They are the parents of a 9-year-old girl who was gang-raped last summer by four boys who are refugees from the war-torn African nation. The victim’s parents were arrested last November after an investigation turned up allegations of child abuse, including beatings, dating to 2007.
The parents were held on $30,000 bond, but Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Susan Brnovich released them to a third-party adult and set release conditions forbidding them from having contact with their daughter or other children. Brnovich also ordered that they surrender their passports.
The parents speak two dialects of a language called Grebo.
Defense attorney Gerald Gavin, who represents the father, said prosecutors have made a settlement offer, but without adequate interpreters, he said, “I can’t explain it to my client.” It also would be difficult to try the case.
“We have nothing firm set because of this problem,” Gavin said. “We can’t even interview the witnesses properly.”
The couple’s daughter, then 8, was lured to a storage closet at a west Phoenix apartment complex, then sexually assaulted by four boys ranging in age from 8 to 14.
The oldest pleaded guilty in juvenile court to kidnapping, sexual assault, sexual conduct with a minor and attempted sexual conduct with a minor. He will be sentenced later this month.
The youngest was found incompetent to stand trial and charges were dropped. The second youngest also has been deemed incompetent, and has a hearing next month to determine if charges should be dropped.
The fourth is still undergoing restoration, a process designed to prepare him for trial.