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November 27, 2002

Deaf woman claims LA County deputies violated her civil rights

From: Sarasota Herald-Tribune, FL - 27 Nov 2002

The Associated Press

A deaf woman who claims she was pepper-sprayed and denied an interpreter during her arrest sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for federal civil rights violations Wednesday.

Thelma Valenzuela contended that deputies answering a complaint of noise at her parents' South Gate home on Nov. 29, 2001 twisted her arm and pepper-sprayed her in the face without trying to communicate through notes or obtain a sign language interpreter.

Valenzuela also contends that she later was interrogated for several hours by deputies who lacked proper ability in using American Sign Language. Her requests for a formal interpreter were ignored during the 18 hours she was in custody, the suit contends.

Valenzuela was charged with battery and resisting a peace officer. She was fined and ordered to perform community service.

Her suit seeks unspecified damages and an order requiring the Sheriff's Department to adopt policies and to train and supervise its deputies to comply with federal disability rights law.

The Sheriff's Department declined to comment on the suit.

"We have not become familiar with it ... the allegations are still under review," Deputy Scott Butler said.

Last modified: November 27. 2002 11:22PM

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