News 02.26.14

Florida Police Charge Wrong Man with Same Name as Offender

Police in Clay County, Florida, arrested the wrong man on a sexual battery charge but kept him in jail for more than a month. Cody Lee Williams, 18, was accused of having sex with a young girl. But officials should have arrested his former classmate Cody Raymond Williams.

 

The

Florida Union-Times

reported that once Cody Lee Williams saw court documents, he realized investigators were looking for the man who shared his name, was born the same year and went to the same high school. He told his mom about the name mix-up and she relayed it to Deputy Sheriff Johnny Hawkins, who had previously neglected to show the victim a photo of either Williams to get a positive identification before making an arrest. Despite Hawkins realizing the error, Cody Lee Williams still spent 35 days behind bars.

 

Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler publicly apologized on Tuesday and said Hawkins has a good record with his department, but took shortcuts in the investigation.

 

Sheriff Beseler was reported saying, “The result was an innocent man was accused of a terrible crime he didn’t commit. . . . Arresting an innocent person is something we fear far more than letting a guilty person get away. I extend to Cody Lee Williams my apology for this error and we will seek to make things right for him.”

 

Hawkins was disciplined for his role in the wrongful arrest with a 10-day suspension and a transfer to patrol. Three other officers who were part of the investigation received counseling for their involvement in the case.

 

Charges against Cody Lee Williams were dropped and the sheriff’s department asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in December to expunge his record, but he still has plans to file a lawsuit against the sheriff’s department.

 

The original suspect, Cody Raymond Williams, is due to appear in court Monday on the sexual assault charge.

 


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