Government Law

Identity-theft victim wins $105K jury award for night spent in lockup and arraignment in jail garb

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A suburban Portland, Ore., resident learned she had been a victim of identity theft in 2008. That’s when an officer from the Clackamas County sheriff’s office stopped by Kimberly Fossen’s home to let her know that a woman arrested in Las Vegas had a Florida driver’s license in Fossen’s name.

But in late 2009, sheriff’s officers came to her home again. This time it was to arrest her on a New York warrant charging her with theft. Knowing that her identity had been stolen, Fossen asked the officers to run her fingerprints to confirm that she was not the woman they sought, the Oregonian reports. Instead, they took her to the county lockup, where she spent the night before being publicly arraigned the next day, shackled and wearing jail garb.

Fossen, who is a decade older than the actual suspect and has noticeably different facial features, was released a few hours after her arraignment. However, “you really have to experience it to know how it feels,” she told a state court jury hearing the false imprisonment civil suit she brought against the county over her arrest. In a 10-2 verdict, they awarded her $105,000.

Her lawyer, John Devlin, said she also hopes the award will help prevent similar mistakes being made concerning other innocent people.

“We regret that the New York detectives and magistrate were not as attentive and careful in issuing the warrant to prevent these types of mistakes in identity,” Stephen Madkour, the county’s counsel, told the newspaper.

The woman authorities actually wanted, Minh Thuy Nguyen, who is now in her mid-20s, was convicted of grand larceny in Nevada in 2010 and convicted of grand theft in Florida in 2011. She got probation in both cases and has never served a day in jail, despite having stolen more than $150,000, another Oregonian article reports.

Meanwhile, a second woman also had her identity stolen by Nguyen and had to prove she wasn’t a criminal convicted in multiple states before she could get an elementary school teaching license, the newspaper recounts.

Earlier stories by KATU and KGW provide additional details about Fossen’s case. She went public about her arrest in the hope that news coverage would help prevent another such experience in the future.

Related coverage: “Jailed based on mistaken identity, some who did nothing wrong are held days, weeks or months”

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