Interpreter Caught Faking Sign Language, No One Surprised Once Her Background Is Researched

Updated December 9, 2017

While hosting a press conference about a Tampa serial killer, the police department turned red with embarrassment when they saw that the sign language interpreter was signing gibberish.

As Chief Brian Dugan announced the charges in the serial killer case that kept the nation on its toes, sign language interpreter Derlyn Roberts used the opportunity to poke fun at the legal system.

Roberts had a history of crime and was previously convicted of felony fraud. And Tampa police were surprised when she started signing “like she was singing Jingle Bells” because they had not requested a sign interpreter for the press conference.

Nevertheless, Roberts baffled all the hearing impaired people when she used gibberish gestures during the critical press conference.

During the announcement, Chief Dugan announced that Tampa police had arrested serial killer Howell Donaldson on Wednesday night. And with American Sign Language interpreter Derlyn Roberts by his side, she started making gestures that made no sense to anyone. Viewers are home and in the audience were stunned that the Tampa police had given a fraud such a prominent role in the press conference.

DailyMail.com obtained state records that indicate Roberts, 53, who also goes by an alias Derlyn Glover once served five years in prison for a felony fraud conviction. She was released in April 2016. She was also convicted of grand theft and burglary.

“She sat up there and waved her arms like she was singing Jingle Bells,” Rachell Settambrino, who is deaf and teaches American Sign Language at the University of South Florida, told the Tampa Bay Times through an interpreter.

While Roberts was not making any sense, she was signing actual words.

Settambrino said Roberts signed: “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.”

While Roberts was faking her way through the conference, Chief Dugan was describing the timeline of the four shootings. He spoke about how the Tampa police had received 5,000 tips before they arrested the suspect.

“I was disappointed, confused, upset and really want to know why the city of Tampa’s chief of police, who is responsible for my safety … did not check her out,” Settambrino said.

The city was confused. They didn’t know how Roberts got into the press conference or why she had the job in the first place.

Tampa Police Department representative Janelle McGregor told the Tampa Bay Times that officials had launched a review.

When the police held a follow-up conference the next day, they had a different interpreter, Ben Zapata, besides the police chief. He was competent.

This incident is not the first time an unqualified person appeared at a news conference to interpret for the hearing impaired.

In the wake of Hurricane Irma in September, Florida hired another incompetent interpreter. As officials ordered an evacuation, the interpreter for Manatee County signed words like “pizza,” “monster,” “bear,” and plenty more gibberish.

Do you think Robert should face charges for the misinformation? Or was it just a funny joke?