- Associated Press - Friday, June 26, 2015

McLEAN, Va. (AP) - A man whose claim about a stolen iPad left a deaf man jailed for six weeks has now recanted his accusation.

Abreham Zemedagegehu, who is homeless, spent six weeks at the Arlington jail last year on charges that he stole the iPad.

Last week, though, the man who accused Zemedagegehu formally rescinded that claim. Robert L. Mason, who is also deaf and homeless, admitted he was mistaken to settle a lawsuit that Zemedagegehu had filed against him in the District of Columbia accusing Mason of making false accusations.

Zemedagegehu pleaded guilty in March 2014 to misdemeanor theft charges. He says he took the plea only because they promised to sentence him to time served, and he wanted to get out of jail.

He already tried once to have the conviction reversed, but a judge refused, saying he missed his window to appeal.

Zemedagegehu’s lawyer, Larry Tanenbaum, said, “We are certainly considering the option of seeking to have the criminal conviction erased, but as for now Abreham is thrilled that his name has been cleared through this settlement.”

Tanenbaum and colleagues from the Akin Gump law firm are representing Zemedagegehu on a pro bono basis.

Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos said she was unaware that Mason had recanted his accusation, and said she wanted to hear more from Mason about why he changed his story before commenting further.

Mason did not respond to messages sent to him through Facebook seeking comment.

Zemedagegehu also has filed a lawsuit against the Arlington County sheriff, alleging the jail failed to provide a sign-language interpreter so he could understand what was happening to him during his incarceration. Zemedagegehu, a native of Ethiopia, can’t communicate effectively in written English.

He said that for the first few days of his imprisonment, he didn’t even know what he was accused of. He said they also conducted medical tests on him without explaining them or giving consent. He said the jail frequently relied on a teletype machine to help him communicate outside the jail, which he said was useless because the technology has become obsolete and because it relies on written English.

The jail has defended its handling of deaf inmates.



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