Monday, December 10, 2012

No Interpreter: Scott Yoos Case Delayed Again

Above: Scott Yoos communicates using a white board and marker with Desdra Dawning, this morning at Thurston County Superior Court. Dawning came to meet Yoos, and hoped to schedule a time to interview him for the next issue of the Olympia Food Co-op newsletter. Yoos is a regular volunteer for the Co-op. 

No Interpreter: Scott Yoos Case Delayed Again

by Janine Unsoeld

The Thurston County Superior Court case against Olympia resident Scott Yoos has been delayed again. Another hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, December 19th, at 1:30 p.m. 

Yoos, accused of a felony assault against a police officer, was initially cited for criminal trespass and obstructing justice on June 1, 2011 at 2302 Fourth Avenue in Olympia. (For more information about Yoos' case, use the search button and use key words on this blog at

This morning, Yoos was upbeat before the hearing, writing on his white-board to communicate his thoughts with several supporters who were gathered outside the courthouse.

Yoos, who can hear, but cannot speak due to a head injury from a beating he suffered in 1984, responded to my morning greeting and question asking how he felt. He wrote, "As good as can be expected."

Yoos then wrote, "Today is Universal Declaration of Human Rights Day! It's a great day for a dismissal!"

Yoos' case was scheduled first on the docket this morning for 9:00 a.m.

After repeated delays in his case, many of them because a court-appointed sign language interpreter was not provided or available, Yoos' attorney, Larry Hildes, today intended to ask the court for a motion to dismiss the case.

It was not to be.

Judge Richard Strophy, who retired in 2009, was serving as judge pro-tem this morning and asked his court assistant to explain this situation.

According to administrative assistant Amy Hunter, the court appointed sign language interpreter she had arranged to be there this morning had left a voice mail over the weekend, cancelling his/her availability to be there Monday morning.  Hunter, who coordinates the interpreters, checked her voice mail this morning and discovered the message. By then, there was not sufficient time to notify all parties involved. Hunter said she proceeded to "scramble to find an interpreter from two sign language interpreter agencies, calling one in Seattle and one in Tacoma," but no one had yet gotten back with her.

Strophy wondered how next to proceed, saying he realized people were inconvenienced.

"This is at least the fifth time an interpreter hasn't been available," Hildes said to the judge. "We cannot go forward without an interpreter." Strophy then asked that his client join Hildes at the table to discuss the situation.

Yoos, holding his white board, momentarily lost his black marker, which had dropped to the floor, and it was handed to him by a supporter sitting nearby. Yoos joined Hildes and Strophy asked Hildes how well he can communicate with his client. "It's impossible  - - it's a violation of his rights under the American Disabilities Act."

Strophy said there were only three certified sign language interpreters in the state who sign the kind used by Yoos.

"My client is extremely frustrated, I'm extremely's getting to the point that the court cannot support Mr. Yoos and the case should be dismissed based on that alone," said Hildes.

Strophy agreed that the situation "was distressing, without pointing fingers, that it hasn't been resolved." Strophy then pointed out to Hildes that Yoos was writing on his white board. "I see Mr. Yoos is writing things on his white board that maybe you should know...."

Frustration was expressed by all parties as Thurston County Prosecutor Andrew Toynbee then took the opportunity to say that he didn't want the case dismissed, and that the court can accommodate Yoos' disability.

"I don't think his case is prejudiced....we have four witnesses here, officers, one who's been on duty since yesterday, one is missing a training, one is off duty, and one is on duty," said Toynbee. 

Hildes said he doesn't know why the state doesn't have more interpreters, saying, "It's not an uncommon language."

Hunter asked if she could check her voice mail to see if she's received a response. Strophy urged her to do so, saying, "Yes, make a last ditch effort...and take the most direct possible route."

Again Hildes asked for a dismissal, citing his future scheduling conflicts, if the court cannot manage to accommodate Mr. Yoos' disability.

Strophy called for a recess to meet with both counsels in his chambers to discuss items off the record. Upon their return, Strophy apologized for the inconvenience to all and postponed the hearing.

A spokesperson for Yoos said later that the case will be continued to Wednesday, December 19, 1:30 p.m, at Thurston County Superior Court. 

In a conversation later with Olympia Police Department Sergeant Paul Johnson, Johnson confirmed that the four police officers involved with the case were subpoenaed to be there as witnesses. "One sergeant was off duty, one sergeant was on duty, one officer was just getting off graveyard, and one went off duty at 3:00 a.m."