CBS 11 Investigates: Prosecutor’s Mistake Leads to North Texas Woman’s Time in Jail
GREENVILLE (CBS 11 NEWS) – These two checks are for only 18-dollars each.
But the criminal case surrounding them may end up costing taxpayers much more.
It’s already cost Rick Sanchez and his family a lot.
Sanchez says, “It’s devastating. It’s been upsetting. My sister is still upset about it.”
The Garland resident says police arrested his sister for writing the bad checks last August.
But Sanchez says his sister is mentally challenged, and didn’t have control of her bank account.
Sanchez says, “She didn’t actually write any checks. It was either done by my mother or my wife.”
The arrest warrant came from Hunt County — signed three years earlier in 2009.
Garland Police say they discovered it while making an unrelated stop at Sanchez’s sister’s house.
Police say the visit was part of a separate investigation that turned out to be nothing.
But while there, they ran her name, and the warrant surfaced. “They took her to jail for five days.”
His sister’s name is Lorena Sanchez.
But the warrant actually identifies a different woman, who lives in a different Garland neighborhood.
She’s also named Lorena.
And her middle name is Sanchez.
But she has a different last name.
Rick Sanchez says, “Different name, different street, different person. Now, my sister was linked to this other woman she didn’t have anything to do with.”
The Sanchez family has now hired attorney Sheida Rastegar, who says his client is paranoid, every time a police car drives by. “She starts texting me, she starts calling me, they’re here to arrest me again. She’s afraid of leaving the house totally.”
We asked Hunt County Attorney Joel Littlefield how this could happen.
Littlefield declined an on-camera interview.
But off-camera, he readily admitted his office made the mistake.
He says they looked up the wrong name in the database, then put that on the warrant, so all of the information incorrectly identified Lorena Sanchez.
Rastegar says, “We’re not saying this is a criminal act by Hunt County government, we are saying it’s a case of negligence, very serious negligence.”
It took five days for Sanchez to get out of jail.
And only after her mother paid a fine.
Rick Sanchez says Littlefield apologized and sent this check for $126 to reimburse them for the fine.
But he’s still not happy.
Sanchez says, “You held an innocent woman, who’s permanently mentally disabled for five days, you put my family through hell.”
Hunt County Attorney Joel Littlefield says looking back, this case should never have been prosecuted in the first place because there wasn’t enough evidence.
So because of that, and because the statute of limitations has now run out, the county won’t file a new case against the true defendant.
Rick Sanchez says his family plans to sue not only Hunt County, but Garland police as well.
They claim both should have known his sister wasn’t the right person to arrest.
Garland police though say they verified the information on the warrant with Hunt County before arresting Sanchez.
Sanchez says his goal is to make sure this kind of mistake doesn’t happen to anyone else.
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