By Tony Hanson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A judge has sentenced a South Philadelphia man to up to five years in prison for violating probation in an endangering a child case, based on the extraordinary testimony of a 63-year-old man who can’t hear or speak, read or write, and who has minimal sign language skills.
Defendant Dwayne Young allegedly violated probation by locking victim Willie Richardson in his basement and stealing his money (see related story). And prosecutor Noel Ann DeSantis proved her case with the help of four sign-language interpreters working together, who interpreted Richardson’s sounds, gestures, facial expressions, even eye movements, used picture boards and engaged in role playing demonstrations with each other and the witness to demonstrate words and concepts.
“Basically it’s the sheer determination of everyone coming together to give him a voice and to really work with him and learn over those 60 hours and four months what he was trying to say, to basically hear someone in their own deaf world,” DeSantis said.
Authorities have now dropped the kidnap case in part to spare the victim further trauma.
The defense attorney, who called the courtroom theatrics “legal charades” still denies Richardson was kidnapped, saying the alleged victim was in love with the defendant’s now deceased wife and was lying to get him in trouble.