Jail gets right name, wrong guy
Manatee County, Florida -- They share the same name, the same Valentine's Day birthday and even got busted on the same traffic violation for driving without a valid drivers license.
But that's probably all 26-year-olds Valentin Garcia of Marion County and Valentin Garcia of Wimauma had in common until a case of mistaken identity not only intertwined their court records, but landed one of them wrongfully behind bars.
There's also a difference of four inches in their height.
"I can understand where a mix-up could be made on the street, but we have a mix-up being made in the jail and that's kind of where it becomes an issue," said Jordan Tawil, an attorney representing Valentin Garcia of Marion County.
The mix-up started back in 2009 when Valentin Garcia of Wimauma was pulled over for driving without a valid driver's license.
He was given a traffic citation, which had his thumbprint on it, and was given a notice to appear in court.
According to court documents, Valentin of Wimauma hired Plant City attorney Ron Tulin to represent him in this traffic case, which he pleaded not guilty to.
But, he failed to show up for his January 2010 court date, possibly due to an open warrant for his arrest in Hillsborough County for aggravated battery.
The judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest with a $1,000 bond.
In July of 2010, Valentin of Marion County was pulled over by a state trooper and taken into custody for driving without a valid driver's license.
It was determined then there was a warrant for Valentin Garcia's arrest out of Marion County.
Problem is, they had the wrong guy.
Valentin of Marion County was transported to the Manatee County Jail in August and remained in the jail for about a month when Tulin received notice that his client had been arrested.
He declined to talk on camera, but says when he checked the case with jail booking, he realized the mug shot of the man serving time for his client's warrant was not his client. So, he contacted the jail and the State Attorney's Office to let them know of the mix-up.
"I understand there are some procedures they use to make sure they have the right person when they do and it remains to be seen whether those procedures were properly followed," said Tawil.
The Marion and Manatee County jails tell 10 News it is procedure to fingerprint people anytime they are booked. Those fingerprints are then scanned through state and national fingerprint databases.
It's not clear how the prints didn't come back as a match to the right Garcia.
A memo from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office states the fingerprint on a copy of the original traffic citation appeared to be redacted so much so it was impossible to tell whether a fingerprint was placed on it.
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