Sign Language Interpreter Aids in Release of a Desperate Defendant

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By Caroline Pierce

FRESNO – With the assistance of a sign language interpreter, defendant Thao Vue begged Fresno County Superior Court Judge Francine Zepeda to release her after Vue was charged with assault.

“Your honor, am I able to be released?” Vue interrupted judge Zepeda right at the start of this arraignment hearing, hoping to be released from custody.

Defense attorney Keegan Smith explained Vue’s not guilty plea and the denial of any allegations, and asked Judge Zepeda to consider releasing the defendant.

Deputy District Attorney Autumn Goodrich stated, “I do note that the victim did not wish to pursue criminal charges and in regard to the injuries sustained, they were minor, if any.”

Upon hearing this, Judge Zepeda began asking questions about the status of Vue’s living situation to decide whether or not she should be released.

“If I’m released, your honor, I would go home” explained Vue through the American Sigh Language (ASL) interpreter.

“Is that home with the confidential victim?” asked the judge to which the defendant said, “I didn’t hurt anyone, your honor.”

The judge insisted, “I don’t want you to talk about the case. You would not be able to go to that home. You would have to go to another home. I will not release you if you only have that place to go.”

Upon hearing Vue’s answers and the appeals from public defender Smith, Judge Zepeda ruled for the release of the defendant with certain restrictions and issued a criminal protective order to prevent contact with the victim.

Defendant Vue was released with orders to wear an ankle bracelet and make absolutely no contact with the victim or return to the victim’s home, in which she was previously living. The judge made it very clear to Vue that she was not to return to the home of the victim, and, if she did, she would be placed back in custody.

During this arraignment, the facts of this case were not discussed; however, a preliminary trial hearing was scheduled for Oct. 6 to review the factual basis and the charges against the defendant. Vue has been asked to find alternate housing and will now be subject to search and seizure in the event that law enforcement believed Vue was engaging in suspicious activity.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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