Man Held in Hawaii for More Than 2 Years Over Mistaken Identity Sues the State

Man Held in Hawaii for More Than 2 Years Over Mistaken Identity Sues the State

The confusion over Mr. Spriestersbach’s identity began in October 2011 when he fell asleep in the stairwell of a middle school in Honolulu. A police officer woke him up and asked him his name.

Mr. Spriestersbach gave his grandfather’s last name, Castleberry, according to the lawsuit. When the police entered the name into their database, a warrant for Thomas R. Castleberry appeared. Mr. Castleberry, who is not related to Mr. Spriestersbach and has never met him, had apparently left Hawaii in 2009, according to the lawsuit.

“Castleberry” remained in the police computer system as an alias for Mr. Spriestersbach. He was stopped again while he was sleeping in a public park in 2015, but the officers let him go after they took his fingerprints and found they did not match Mr. Castleberry’s. Still, the officers did not correct the department’s records, according to the complaint.

On May 11, 2017, Mr. Spriestersbach fell asleep on a sidewalk as he waited for food outside a shelter in Honolulu. Mr. Spriestersbach, who did not have identification, gave the officers his full name, birth date and Social Security number, according to the lawsuit. The officers arrested him, this time without doing a fingerprint comparison, the lawsuit says.

At the hospital, Mr. Spriestersbach protested when he was forced to attend group sessions for drug users, and employees responded by giving him antipsychotic medications that made him drool and struggle to walk, according to the petition and to Vedanta Griffith, his sister.

In November 2019, one of his psychiatrists obtained his birth certificate and realized that Mr. Spriestersbach was who he said he was, according to the petition filed in August.

The hospital released him on Jan. 17, 2020, with 50 cents, two copies of his birth certificate and other documents. He was then driven back to the same shelter where he had been arrested and was reunited with his sister after he called his family.

“These people have no heart,” Ms. Griffith said in a statement.

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