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July 14, 2004

Deaf Newark man sues Correction Department

From: The News Journal, DE - Jul 14, 2004

Suit says he was denied interpreter

Staff reporter

A deaf Newark man who claims his requests for an American Sign Language interpreter were refused while he was incarcerated has sued the state Department of Correction.

Richard Funk, 35, has also sued Stan Taylor, commissioner of the department, and Raphael Williams, warden at Young Correctional Institution, where Funk was an inmate.

Funk was arrested in July 2002, accused of a probation violation and incarcerated. He alleges that prison officials denied his requests for an American Sign Language interpreter and access to a telephone equipped for text messaging, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed at U.S. District Court in Wilmington, seeks unspecified damages.

Prison spokeswoman Beth Welch said Tuesday the department just received the lawsuit and officials have not yet fully reviewed it. "We will investigate the claims and forward those findings to the Attorney General's Office for defense," she said.

Sign language is Funk's first language and he does not read or write English well, according to the lawsuit. His inability to communicate hampered his attempts to arrange bail and led him to be improperly placed in a section of the prison for people accused of violent crimes, according to the lawsuit.

Funk, a postal employee, was released on $5,000 bail in August 2002 after a union representative investigated his whereabouts when Funk's incarceration caused him to miss work. The union representative paid Funk's bail, according to the lawsuit.

A Superior Court judge later found Funk innocent of the probation violation, according to court papers. He had been accused of being in his residence with a 12-year-old girl.

Funk's probation terms prohibited him from having contact with anyone under 18 except his own children. He was convicted in April 1999 of five counts of third-degree unlawful sexual contact in a case involving a 15-year-old girl, according to court records. He is a registered sex offender.

Neither Funk nor his attorney, Clifford B. Hearn Jr., could be reached for comment.

Reach Mary Allen at 324-2794 or

Copyright ©2004, The News Journal.