TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa police spokesman Steve Hegarty says a lack of due diligence allowed a career criminal to take center stage as an American Sign Language interpreter last week during a hastily-called news conference where the police chief and mayor announced they had captured a suspect in the Seminole Heights murders.
Even worse, Hegarty says, is the sign language poser Derlyn Roberts blew the assignment with a gibberish-filled interpretation broadcast on live television at 11 p.m. Tuesday.
“My major concern is that she was representing our department and didn’t do a good job,” Hegarty said.
Hegarty says Roberts presented herself as an interpreter for the deaf just before the news conference. In that hectic moment, he says he failed to ask the right questions to determine whether she was from Purple Communications which the city typically hires for sign language duties.
Rachelle Settambrino, who teaches sign language at the University of South Florida, says interpreter Roberts signed the following: “Fifty-one hours ago, zero 12 22 (indecipherable) murder three minutes in 14 weeks ago in old (indecipherable) murder four five 55,000 plea 10 arrest murder bush (indecipherable) three age 24.”
Another USF professor says it made her stomach turn.
“I was sick at the idea of all the other interpreters that could have been standing there and been signing the information clearly. What in the world was this person doing out there, waving her hands,” said Betti Bonni.
Roberts got out of state prison last year after serving years for organized fraud.
Efforts to reach her by 8 On Your Side were unsuccessful on Monday. Neighbors say she claims to have sign language skills, but it’s not clear that she has any ASL credentials.