AUSTIN (CN) – A man who was mistakenly released early from jail says he tried repeatedly to turn himself in, but Bastrop County refused to accept him, saying it had no warrant for his arrest – until 10 years later, when he was stopped for a traffic violation, jailed on the old warrant and held nearly 2 years beyond his original release date.
Eric Vazquez says he was sentenced and jailed on a sexual assault conviction on Jan. 31, 1997 with a “maximum release date” of Jan. 29, 2007. He was “wrongfully released from the Bastrop County Jail” after serving only 4 days, he says in his complaint in Travis County Court.
He called his attorney, who told him to turn himself in, Vazquez says.
So he did.
“Plaintiff Vazquez called the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Department and told them of his release, provided his date of birth and Social Security number and inquired whether he should come to the Sheriff’s Department and turn himself in,” the complaint states. “He was instructed that his release was authorized and not a mistake.”
Vazquez then hired another attorney to appeal his conviction, and when it was denied his attorney told him he was not eligible for release on bond, and suggested he surrender to the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Department.
So he did, again.
“Plaintiff Vazquez again contacts the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Department and is told that he cannot surrender because there is no warrant for his arrest.
“Over the next ten years, plaintiff Vazquez renews his driver’s license, acquires a Texas journeyman’s plumbing license and obtained citizenship for his children who were born outside the United States. Plaintiff Vazquez made no attempts to conceal his whereabouts or avoid his sentence and in fact continued to live at his residence for more than ten years.”
However, “On or about August 8, 2007, plaintiff Vazquez was stopped for a routine traffic violation and was arrested on a warrant.
“Plaintiff Vazquez remained jailed past his maximum release date of January 29, 2007 until April of 2009.”
Vazquez filed an appeal and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found he “should have been credited with time served from his erroneous release on February 3, 1997 to his date of arrest in August 2007,” according to the complaint.
Vazquez seeks damages from Texas, Bastrop County, the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Department and Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, for false imprisonment and negligence.
He is represented by Ryan Dougay of Austin.