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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oops! SF Jails Wrong Man For 11 Days, Lawsuit Claims

Posted By on Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 5:40 PM

They all look the same to me...
  • They all look the same to me...
They all look the same to me...
In an apparent jailhouse version of babies accidentally switched at the hospital, the San Francisco Sheriff's Department allegedly switched identification numbers of two Luke Smith who happened to be in jail at the same time last May, according to a new lawsuit.

The two were booked with the same birth date, the lawsuit said. That's a piece of information typically used by law enforcement to distinguish similarly-named people.

When the two got out, the Sheriff's Department booking identities apparently remained incorrect.

In July, after one of the Smiths (apparently an imposter) failed to show up for a court date, a judge purportedly issued a warrant for the real Luke Smith's arrest. Police served the warrant.

And the arrested Smith ended up serving 11 days of the wrong person's time, according to a federal wrongful-incarceration lawsuit filed last week.

"Plaintiff was arrested on said warrant on July 7, 2009, and subsequently booked into the San Francisco County Jail by sheriff's deputies, despite the existence of inconsistent SFPD booking photos," the complaint said.

Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Eileen Hirst said she would look into the matter, and get back to us Friday. We'll append her comments. We also left a message for the attorney representing Luke Smith -- the one who supposedly spent 11 days of undeserved jail time, not the other one.

In the meantime, the supposedly wrongly jailed Luke Smith is demanding $100,000 for pain and suffering incurred.

Oct. 22 Update:

We just heard back from Luke Smith's attorney, Che Hashim, who tells us this wasn't a case of two Luke Smiths, but rather Luke Smith's acquaintance lying about his identity when arrested and booked.

"Imagine someone got themselves booked into jail as Matt Smith," Hashim said. "That's sort of what we're worried about: someone booking themselves as Che Hashim. They don't show up for their court date. So the cops go out and arrest Chet Hashim. Cops have the responsibility of identifying people."

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