San Bernardino County Settles ‘Mistaken Identity’ Warrants Case

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A man who highlighted long-standing flaws in California’s warrants system after law enforcement arrested him on a warrant meant for someone else has settled his civil rights case against the County of San Bernardino and the City of Colton.

In 2016, Manuel Bravo Martinez filed a federal complaint against the county and its sheriff’s department and the City of Colton and its police, claiming officials had jailed hundreds of people on warrants meant for someone else. In some cases, officials had mistakenly arrested people on the warrants multiple times, according to Martinez.

On Thursday, Martinez filed court documents confirming that the parties had settled the case.

“The city council of defendant City of Colton and the board of supervisors for defendant County of San Bernardino have approved settlement agreements disposing of this case; plaintiff awaits only the issuance of the settlement checks,” the two-page filing states.

Martinez was jailed at the San Bernardino County Jail Central Detention Center on Aug. 11, 2015 after a Colton police officer stopped him during a morning drive for failing to use a proper child restraint in his vehicle.

Martinez said officers arrested him after running a warrant check and finding an outstanding warrant for another Manuel Martinez who was facing fraud, drug and weapon charges.

But there were major differences between the subject of the warrant and Martinez, he said. He had a different middle name, and he is not a “junior” as the suspect was. Their birth dates were two months and eight days apart. Martinez had an address in Hawaii, but the man on the warrant lived in California – and their drivers’ license numbers were different.

Colton police Officer Matthew Collins arrested and jailed Martinez despite his protests, he said. He added that jailers should have realized their error because his fingerprints were on file from a 2007 misdemeanor conviction for reckless driving.

Martinez spent the night in jail, was arraigned the next day and posted a $100,000 bond. San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Raymond Haight cleared Martinez after comparing his identifying information with the identifiers on the warrant, Martinez said in the complaint.

Martinez’s attorney, Donald Cook, has filed multiple lawsuits against Los Angeles County seeking to fix flaws in the state’s warrants system. The attorney has repeatedly urged law enforcement officials to use the unique identifying numbers on warrants.

“This is not the result of aberrational behavior,” Cook said in an interview with Courthouse News in 2016. “This is the result of a systematic failure by law enforcement to simply exonerate the innocent, the people that they really know, should know, are innocent. They have an attitude of they don’t really care if in fact it’s not the right person.”

San Bernardino County sheriff’s department records going back five years showed that up to 450 people were jailed on the wrong warrants and that officials knew about the problem but did nothing to fix it, Martinez said.

Cook wrote in an email on Thursday that the case had settled for $150,000 with no formally acknowledged changes to the warrant system.

The class action complaint was for false arrest, wrongful incarceration and false imprisonment.

San Bernardino County spokesman David Wert said that he could not comment on cases related to the sheriff’s department.

The City of Colton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


%d bloggers like this: