INTERPRETER WARS CONTINUED
FRANK CARSON CASE
BY WILLIAM THOMAS JENSEN (TOM)
Today, we continued the testimony of Bal Sindal, an employee of the Stanislaus County DA’s office that was used to interpret intercepted phone calls done in Fijian Hindu language. This is a very controversial situation because of who she works for, and her lack of credentials and testing that the defense attorneys feel should disqualify her work on this case. Her testimony is followed by the testimony of another law enforcement officer that was used to interpret phone intercepts of calls that were spoken in the Hindi language. His qualifications are in question as well, and it was quite entertaining listening to arguments today. The judge seems to be inclined to accept their qualifications, but the issue of moving their interpretations into evidence will have to be dealt with later, if this trial goes before a jury.
Defense Attorney Percy Martinez starts out by asking Ms. Sindal if she personally transcribed the documents. She said: “Yes.” She testified that she was personally instructed on older taped recordings by Steve Jacobson. She said Jacobson was always there when she was doing her translations, and that Jacobson gave her direction. A Fijian police officer working for the city of Newman named Ronell Singh reviewed her transcriptions. His expertise, if you can call it that, is in the Hindi language. He understands Hindi, but can neither read nor write the language.
It is noted again today that we have two court clerks working this complex case.
Defense Attorney Robert Forkner states that Ms. Sindal embellishes things, and works for the DA’s office, and is not a qualified interpreter.
Defense Attorney Percy Martinez says that Ms. Sindal is not aware of the requirements to complete the 8-hour course in Sacramento that she did complete before starting to do her transcriptions. Percy goes through a long list of the course requirements in order to register for the course. She did not meet any of those requirements, but was enrolled into the course anyway.
At 11:23 PM, officer Ronie Singh of the Newman Police Department was put on the stand. He was born, and raised till the age of 19 in Fiji. He grew up speaking Fijian Hindu. Mr. Singh is not certified locally, or with the State of California to do transcriptions in this language, or any other language. He has an AA degree in criminal justice, and had never before done interpretation work for court proceedings. He is certified for wiretap evidence. It was brought out that he oversaw Bal Sindal with respect to her interpretation of Fijian Hindu. His interpretation skills have never been evaluated by another party.
After the lunch time break, we resume at 1:49 PM. It is revealed that court will start at 10:00 AM on both Monday and Tuesday next week.
Defense Attorney Percy Martinez asks Officer Singh if he knew Praveen Singh before he was a police officer. He said that the Fijian population locally all know each other because of church and social events. Officer Singh testified that he knew about Frank Carson, but never met him. His first work at translation was at a Department of Justice office in Fresno. He said he did not know why he was asked to work, and knew nothing about the case. He said that the only live wiretaps he worked on were at the Fresno office, and that he worked in Fresno for approximately two weeks.
Officer Singh testified that he found errors in work that two other translators had done in Fresno, but that he was unaware of any errors that they had found on his translations. He testified that he never worked on any intercepted calls concerning the Athwal brothers. He stated that Steve Jacobson and DOJ supervisors oversaw his work in Fresno. At 2:46 PM, Officer Singh was allowed to step down.
At this point, Marlissa Fereirra begins arguments about the qualifications of the two interpreters. It is brought out that a total of 105 phone calls are being used out of a total of 56,000 calls.
Defense Attorney Robert Forkner brings out that the DA did not disclose which calls were being used until last week. This made it impossible for the defense to work on the intercepts and prepare for court.
Defense Attorney Percy Martinez brings out the fact that Ms. Sindal only lived in Fiji till she was 6-7 years old, and that Officer Singh can neither read nor write Fijian Hindu. The arguments flew back and forth in the courtroom at break neck speed. The defense attorneys are dismayed that none of this work was sent out for a professional to do.
Defense Attorney Martha Carlton Magana brings out that the defense does not know which of the translations were done live, or which interpreter did the translation.
Defense Attorney Jesse Garcia argues that Marlissa Fereirra had not established the foundation that is necessary.
Defense Attorney Percy Martinez states that the burden is on the people to insure the interpreter’s qualifications.
Finally, all the arguments are submitted, and final.
Judge Zuniga starts talking, and it seems as though she is going to deem the interpreters as qualified, but that more foundation must be laid on the educational qualifications of Officer Singh. We are back to a four day per week schedule, and court will resume at 10:00 AM Monday. I am physically and mentally shot. I really need a day off tomorrow.
Sincerely; William Thomas Jensen (Tom)