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Court reverses conviction of man accused of sexual abuse at deaf school

Deaf man's conviction reversed because he wasn't able to question his interpreter' translations.

The state's second-highest court reversed the conviction of a deaf man accused of sexually abusing two girls at the Maryland School for the Deaf because he wasn't able to question the interpreter's translation of his responses during a police interrogation.

The Court of Special Appeals said Clarence Cepheus Taylor III, 40, was denied his constitutional right to confront and cross-examine the interpreter during his trial in Howard County Circuit Court in November 2013, the opinion said. Taylor said an interpreter who translated during his five-hour interrogation with a Howard County police detective had incorrectly interpreted his sign-language statements.

"It becomes kind of a game of telephone. A lot can be lost in those steps," said Taylor's attorney, Brandon Mead. He said Taylor's family has suffered, and his client has maintained his innocence.

Howard County state's attorney's office spokesman T. Wayne Kirwan said the office intends to appeal.

Taylor, who worked as a school aide, was sentenced to seven years in February 2014 after being found guilty of sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl at the Columbia campus.

The Baltimore Sun does not identify victims of sexual assault. The children's parents could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Seven girls between the ages of 10 and 13 initially accused Taylor of offenses between 2008 and 2011. In four other trials, the jury was unable to reach a verdict, and the state's attorney's office placed the cases on the stet docket, which means the state could reopen the case if it can show good cause, Mead said. In one case, Taylor was found not guilty.

Taylor has denied any inappropriate touching and testified that he could have accidentally made contact with a student, but that he would have apologized if the interaction had occurred.

"There's some misunderstandings in that video. What I said is that it could have happened, and if it did, it would have been an accident. I said it could have happened," Taylor testified, according to the opinion.

But prosecutors said that the transcripts show Taylor had apologized to specific students after accidentally touching them.

The interpreter was not called as a witness because the judge found the interpreter "was not an accuser," the opinion said. The evidence presented against Taylor included video of the sign-language communications between Taylor and the interpreter and recordings of statements by the interpreter, translating what Taylor had said.

"With sign language you don't have the ability to give inflection," Mead said. "A lot of it comes down to mannerisms. When you are signing something for somebody you never have [had] before, you can miss things."

jkanderson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/janders5

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