Mistaken identity leads to wrongful imprisonment in Portland, $3 - KPTV - FOX 12

Mistaken identity leads to wrongful imprisonment in Portland, $300,000 lawsuit

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A case of mistaken identity led an innocent Portland-area woman to be jailed for a week, then transported some 120 miles from home to another jail before a deputy realized the error and let her go.

Now, she’s filing a $300,000 lawsuit for wrongful imprisonment and negligence.

The lawsuit, filed in Multnomah County Court Monday, says Tiffany Eggleston used to go by her married name of Tiffany Nicole Wilson.

She was arrested near the coast for DUII in 2005, triggering her entrance into a state criminal justice database, even though the charges against her were dropped.

Fast-forward to 2012 and Jefferson County, in Central Oregon.

A woman with a similar name, Tiffany Lyn Wilson, was cited by Madras Police for second-degree theft.  She was apparently never booked into jail and failed to show up in court, prompting a warrant to be issued for her arrest.               

According to the lawsuit, that arrest warrant did not include Tiffany Lyn Wilson’s criminal justice database number and a clerk mistakenly associated it with Tiffany Nicole Wilson’s.

But nobody knew for another two years, when the innocent woman called police because her husband violated a restraining order.

Responding officers, thinking she was the one with the warrant, took her to the Multnomah County Jail.  That was February 13, 2014.  Despite her assertions they had the wrong woman, she stayed there for a week and was transported over Mt. Hood to the Jefferson County Jail in Madras, roughly 120 miles away on February 20th.

She again asserted they had the wrong woman, and according to the lawsuit, when a deputy came to process her the next morning it was “the first time anyone addressed her mistaken identity claim.”  She was released in a matter of hours “after deputies compared her information to that of Tiffany Lyn Wilson."

As for the search for the real suspect?  It was dropped the same day Eggleston was released from jail – February 21st, 2014.

A motion for dismissal filed in Jefferson County Court on the same date reads: “The state is unable to locate and identify [her] and the statute of limitations has run [out].”

“It’s sad that the innocent person lands in jail, and the guilty person walks free.  That doesn’t spell justice, even with a small letter j,” said criminal defense attorney John Henry Hingson.

Hingson, based in Oregon City, has no ties to this specific case but told Fox 12 to be wrongfully imprisoned is the worst injustice the justice system can impose.

“Why wouldn’t fingerprints let this woman out quickly?  Why didn’t the jails realize they had the wrong woman quickly?  This isn’t real high tech stuff,” he added.  “The public has a right to be afraid, because if they keep the wrong ones in jail, they may very well let the wrong ones out.”

Eggleston wasn't immediately available for comment.

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