Arraigning a deaf person on criminal charges presents unique - but not insurmountable - challenges.
For the third time in his 25 years on the bench, District Judge Allen P. Page III did just that.
Late Monday afternoon, Page went to the Lycoming County Prison to arraign a deaf woman, who had been incarcerated since Saturday night on felony and misdemeanor charges.
Lareta E. Sandler, 61, was arrested for allegedly threatening a psychiatric aide at a community services group mental health home where she lives in the city. She allegedly cornered the aide and held a large knife at her for nearly 30 minutes.
Police were called and quickly disarmed Sandler by using a Taser gun, according to an affidavit. She had been refusing to take her medicine or to eat food. A district judge ruled she was unfit for arraignment and placed her in jail.
Page, the on-duty judge on Monday, learned that Sandler was deaf and that she had to be arraigned. Although deaf, it turned out that Sandler could read and write. That helped.
Page went to the prison prepared. He took with him four pages of double-spaced typed instructions that explained the steps of an arraignment.
"We were able to communicate through the printed word," Page explained.
Although on a very limited level, the judge also was able to use sign language to introduce himself and communicate to Sandler to "please be seated?" It set a positive tone for the proceedings right the start. The arraignment took place in a small room, away from the cellblock where Sandler had been held.
On average, arraignments take about 15 minutes. However, when the circumstances involve a defendant with special needs, proceedings can take longer. Page estimated that Sandler's arraignment took about 45 minutes.
With his typed instructions, Page read out loud each word on the page as Sandler followed along. "It was like a talking book," the judge said.
The instructions also consisted of questions that Page asked the woman. She could point to Yes or No on whether should comprehended what was happening.
"She seemed to understand what was going on. She was calm, not upset," Page said Tuesday in describing the inmate's emotions during the proceedings.
Page helped Sandler fill out an application for a public defender. He was able to communicate to her that a sign interpreter would be on hand at her preliminary hearing, which is scheduled before him on Thursday.
"I think I asked her if she would take her medication, and she replied she would," Page said. He was able to explain bail to the woman. She told the judge she had no place to go. She remained incarcerated in lieu of $10,000 bail.
"She signed 'Thank you' and I signed back 'You're welcome,'" Page said in describing how the proceedings ended.