Fake Sign Language Interpreter Faced Murder, Rape Charges

Image: Fake Sign Language Interpreter Faced Murder, Rape Charges President Barack Obama delivers a speech next to sign language interpreter Thamsanqa Jantjie during the memorial service for late South African President Nelson Mandela at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg. (Getty Images)

Friday, 13 Dec 2013 12:20 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The bogus sign language interpreter for the deaf at the Nelson Mandela funeral has faced several criminal charges including rape, kidnapping and murder, it was revealed Friday.

The South African news agency eNCA said it is not known what happened to Thamsanqa Jantjie's murder charge because the documents in the case have vanished.

Jantjie, who stood close to world leaders including President Barak Obama at the memorial, has been denounced by deaf people worldwide, who said that his signing language was gibberish. It's since been revealed that Jantjie had no sign language certification.

Now it turns out that Jantjie, who is being treated for schizophrenia, faced a rape charge in 1994, theft charges in 1995, a burglary charge in 1997, malicious damage charges in 1998, as well as murder, attempted murder, and kidnapping charges in 2003.

According to eNCA, most of the cases were dropped, supposedly because he was mentally unfit to stand trial. Although Jantjie was acquitted of rape, he was found guilty of theft and sentenced to three years in prison. But it is not known whether he actually spent time behind bars, says eNCA.

The 2003 murder, attempted murder, and kidnapping case was sent to the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg for trial, and although the case was finalized in 2006, the court file is empty, so the outcome in unknown.

The eNCA wasn't able to confirm that the case was dropped because he was declared mentally unfit to stand trial.

Jantjie has admitted that he suffers from schizophrenia and that he was hallucinating visions of angels during the ceremony. He also said his schizophrenic episodes can lead to violence, and that he had spent a year in a mental health facility.

The fact that a dangerous, bogus interpreter was just a few feet from the president has drawn criticism for the Secret Service for not doing a background check.

But Edwin Donovan, deputy assistant director of the Secret Service, said Thursday that the vetting of sign language interpreters, or other stage participants, for criminal history was the responsibility of the host organizing committee.

And he added, "Secret Service special agents are always in close proximity to the president whether he is overseas or in residence at the White House."

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