Wrong Man Jailed For Six Days In Name Mixup
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Jorge Garcia Soto went to jail on a warrant issued for another man with the same birth date and a similar name - the second time in five months the legal system has confused the two men.
″It is unfortunate for Mr. Soto, and it is with the county’s apologies,″ said Deputy District Attorney Beth Van Arnam. ″But with so many bench warrants and the officers having to act on good faith, I don’t know how we can prevent it. It does happen a lot.″
Soto, 27, was released Saturday after six days in jail when officials finally were convinced they had the wrong man.
″No one would listen to me,″ Soto, a Spanish-speaking man from Santa Ana, said Sunday. ″I felt very frustrated.″
In March, he was arrested in Los Angeles for investigation of drunken driving. Police said they found a previous conviction for the same offense on his record, but Soto said he had no record.
Eventually, officials discovered the earlier charge belonged to Jorge Garcia of Los Angeles County. A Department of Motor Vehicles computer list had ascribed the conviction to Soto. Both men were born April 26, 1959.
Soto pleaded no contest to the drunken driving charge this month. He was fined and placed on three years’ probation.
But police in Orange stopped Soto on July 7, claiming he had made an illegal right turn. Officers said a license check turned up an outstanding warrant on charges of drunken driving, driving without a license and failure to have proof of insurance.
But again, Garcia’s name was on the warrant, not Soto’s.
Soto said he tried in vain to explain the situation to police.
″I was very upset, because I tried to tell so many people to compare my fingerprints,″ he said.
Orange police Sgt. John Higley said Sunday that Officer Armando Marrujo did not mention Soto’s statement in his report.
Soto spent five days in Orange County Jail waiting to be transferred to Los Angeles County.
″His family did not have the money to bail him out, so he just sat there,″ said his lawyer, Raul Lomas.
On Friday, when Soto was transferred to Los Angeles County Jail, Lomas explained the situation in East Los Angeles Municipal Court, where the warrant had been issued. He presented a fingerprint analysis showing his client was not the person named in the warrant, and Soto was ordered released.