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Attempted rape proceedings fogged by translation problem

A hearing in Island County Superior Court Monday was complicated by the fact that the defendant, Miguel De Jesus, at far right, speaks a rare language. De Jesus, Spanish translator Patsy Martinez and attorney Darrin Hall speak with a Trique translator over a speakerphone. - Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times
A hearing in Island County Superior Court Monday was complicated by the fact that the defendant, Miguel De Jesus, at far right, speaks a rare language. De Jesus, Spanish translator Patsy Martinez and attorney Darrin Hall speak with a Trique translator over a speakerphone.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland/Whidbey News-Times

A 23-year-old Coupeville man accused of attempting to rape a woman who police reports allege he purchased in Mexico appeared at a chaotic court hearing in Coupeville Monday afternoon.

In the end, Miguel De Jesus’ attorney entered a plea of not guilty to a charge of attempted rape in the second degree. Prosecutors charged him April 20 in Island County Superior Court.

The case is challenging for both the defense and prosecution because of a language barrier. De Jesus speaks Trique, a language spoken by indigenous people from the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Only 12,000 to 20,000 people speak the language, court documents state.

The language is so rare the court had to use a non-certified translator who doesn’t speak English. Apolonio Dominguez was not in court in person, but translated from Trique to Spanish and vice versa, over a speakerphone.

Another translator, Patsy Martinez, translated from Spanish to English.

Although it was difficult for attorneys not to speak over the translators, De Jesus said he understood his rights and stated that he was not guilty.

De Jesus’ attorney, Darrin Hall of Coupeville, explained that he hasn’t even had a chance to have confidential communication with his client because of the language barrier.

In an interview, Hall said he’s concerned about the accuracy of the alleged victim’s statement. De Jesus’ 18-year-old wife accused him of assaulting her and attempting to rape her at their home April 10, according to a police report. But Hall pointed out that she is also a Trique and her statement to police was provided through a Spanish translator.

The woman, who has two children with De Jesus, reported that De Jesus “purchased” her two years ago from her father in her Mexican hometown, court documents indicate. De Jesus paid 30,000 pesos, which is just over $2,000, the police report states.

Various Internet sources about the Trique culture say that the practice of giving dowries is part of the culture, although most state that the woman or girl must consent to the arrangement. De Jesus is not facing charges for allegedly purchasing the girl.

In this case, the young woman said she doesn’t want to go back to De Jesus but feels she has to because her father can’t return the 30,000 pesos. Deputy Attorney Eric Ohme said she would be in danger if she returned to her hometown after defying the traditions.

The alleged victim also reported that De Jesus had beaten and raped her in the past, the police report states.

De Jesus is being held in jail on $125,000 bail. Ohme said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a hold on De Jesus.

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