Abuse Charges Against Liberian Parents Dismissed

Prosecutors moved to dismiss child abuse counts against Hemie and Wedeh Dio and Judge Bruce Cohen granted the State’s motion this week.

In 2007, the Dio family relocated their family to Arizona from war-torn Liberia and refugee camps along the Ivory Coast. Two years later, the Dio’s then 8-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted by four boys ranging in age from 9 to 14 years. As law enforcement investigated the sexual assault, they identified several prior police reports indicating a pattern of the victim being unattended, including swimming unattended in a community pool, wandering into a neighbor’s backyard and walking alone at night on a busy street.

Complicating matters was that the Dios only spoke an uncommon Liberian dialect, Seaside Greco, making it difficult for the Maricopa County Office of the Court Interpreter to identify a suitable translator. The Dios were also illiterate and all court proceedings and police reports had to be audibly recorded and translated.

The Dios accepted a diversion plan that included dependency proceedings, parenting classes and agreeing to move out of the neighborhood when the sexual assault took place. The Dio’s daughter was placed in the care of a guardian and the parents were granted visitation. The defendants have abided by all the rules of the diversion plan and quarterly review hearings have been successful; therefore the motion was granted.

“During the pendency of this matter, while we struggled to find an interpreter who could effectively communicate in the illiterate defendants’ dialect, we directed the defendants to comply with all orders of the juvenile court in dependency proceedings,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “Proceeding with a prosecution would have required interpreter resources not available in the United States and would not have added much more to the supervision that had taken place over the last six years.”

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