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Mistakenly arrested again, at court hearing in earlier mistaken-arrest case, woman plans to sue

Posted Jun 11, 2014 1:10 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Twice arrested within six months by a single Florida law enforcement agency, for crimes in which another individual with the same name is wanted, a Louisiana woman with no felony record is now planning to sue.

In a Monday letter (PDF), attorney Andrew Bonderud says his client, Ashley Nicole Chiasson, was in court for a hearing after being freed in the first mistaken-arrest case only to be mistakenly arrested a second time, by the same law enforcement agency.

His client had never been to Clay County, where the two felonies at issue occurred, before she was extradited there from Louisiana in January and jailed for nearly one month, Bonderud writes. Yet, even after the first mistaken arrest should have been apparent, Chiasson was arrested again, when she appeared in court in May for a status hearing in that case, for another crime in which the "real perp" was suspected.

The second mistaken-arrest case came to a relatively swift conclusion. Represented by the public defender's office, Chiasson spent only a week in jail before she was freed earlier this month, according to Bonderud. The first case against her was dropped by the prosecution a few days later.

While "real perp" also hails from Louisiana and has the same first and last names, she also is about five inches taller than Chiasson and has a different middle name and social security number, according to Bonderud.

Sheriff Rick Beseler apologized for the errors in a Tuesday written statement and promised to improve procedures and hold the detectives involved responsible for the apparent investigatory "short-cuts" that led to warrants being issued for Chiasson's arrest for crimes in which she wasn't the suspect, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Chiasson said she "lost everything," including her home, as a result of being jailed in Florida, and her daughter is seeing a counselor to deal with emotional problems.

“How can they make the second mistake, again?” she asked. “I don’t understand how they can just re-arrest me for something I didn’t do, without fingerprints, without anything.”

Earlier this year, the sheriff's department also made headlines when a local teenager was charged as an adult for a crime in which the suspect was another teenager with the same name who attended the same high school. He spent more than a month in jail before the mistake was rectified.

It appears that the mistaken arrests in both cases might have been avoided if the victim of the crime had been asked to identify a photograph of the suspect.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: "Jailed based on mistaken identity, some who did nothing wrong are held days, weeks or months"

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