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Archive for Friday, December 23, 2005

$500,000 awarded in mistaken identity

December 23, 2005

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— The names are almost the same, but the wrong man ended up in jail twice because of mistakes, and now a jury has awarded him $500,000 in damages, on top of an earlier $25,000 settlement.

Alonzo Echols was arrested in February 2000 by Kansas City, Kan., police on five misdemeanor warrants and one felony warrant for aggravated battery. The warrants bore his name and his birthdate, but the person actually accused of wrongdoing was another man - Alonzo Eacholes.

Because one of the offenses was a felony, an attorney was appointed to represent Echols.

"When she went to interview him, she quickly determined the man she was looking at was not the same man on the mug shot," said Thomas Hankins, the attorney representing Echols in his wrongful imprisonment lawsuit.

Still, because he couldn't afford the $25,000 bond, and despite his claims that the wrong man had been arrested, Echols was kept in jail for 18 days until the felony charge against him finally was dismissed.

His lawsuit against the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., was settled in 2002 for $25,000, with the government not admitting any liability.

But there was still more grief to come for Echols over the mix-up.

In July 2003, someone - possibly Eacholes, according to court documents - appeared in municipal court on the five misdemeanor counts. Whoever it was denied being the named defendant, and an identity hearing was scheduled.

After the person contesting his identification as a wrongdoer failed to show up at the hearing, the judge issued five new bench warrants - all bearing the name and birthdate of Alonzo Echols.

This time Echols sued the unified government as well as several law enforcement agencies.

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