County jail sued over brother ID mix-up
Originally published September 12, 2012 at 10:51 a.m., updated September 12, 2012 at 8:08 p.m.
Daniel S. Conley, who spent 10 days in jail in 2010 despite his insistence that officers had the wrong man, has filed a lawsuit against the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
The lawsuit, filed in Clark County Superior Court on Aug. 24 by Vancouver attorney Robert Milesnick, seeks damages but does not name a specific monetary amount.
Conley, 45, was taken into custody on Sept. 7, 2010, when he showed up at the Clark County Jail to post bail for his brother, David M. Conley, 47.
Daniel Conley gave his name to a county employee, who ran a search and found a warrant.
The warrant had been issued because David Conley had been arrested three times that summer for driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license, and each time he gave Vancouver police officers his brother’s name, date of birth and Social Security number. David Conley had told officers he was not carrying any identification.
When David Conley did not show up to court, a warrant was issued for Daniel Conley.
According to the lawsuit, Daniel Conley, who has a criminal record, protested his Sept. 7 arrest by sheriff’s Deputy Richard Guadan.
Daniel Conley showed Guadan “two large tattoos on each arm distinguishing him from his brother” that had been on record with the sheriff’s office since 2009 (when defendants are booked, tattoos are listed on the intake form). Daniel Conley also pointed out that he’s two years younger than David, as well as three inches taller and 40 pounds heavier.
Guadan was told by jail records staff that David Conley was in custody and that David had used Daniel’s name, according to the lawsuit.
Daniel Conley spent 10 days in jail before posting bail. On Sept. 21, 2010, a Vancouver city attorney sent an email explaining the mix-up and said charges would be dropped against Daniel Conley.
The lawsuit raises the question why Clark County did not run a check of David Conley’s fingerprints in a national database. Had David Conley’s fingerprints been checked against the database, officers would have known he was lying. Had Daniel Conley’s fingerprints been checked, officers would have known he was telling the truth.
Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Bernard Veljacic said Wednesday that he plans to file his general response to the lawsuit this week. He said he can’t comment on the particulars of the lawsuit but said the jail does scan fingerprints of new inmates and sends them to the Washington State Patrol, which checks the prints against AFIS, which stands for Automated Fingerprint Identification System.
The lawsuit names Clark County, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, the Clark County Corrections Department and Deputy Guadan as defendants.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Fred Neiman said Wednesday that he couldn’t discuss the Conley case because of the pending litigation, but said typically an inmate’s fingerprints are sent to Washington State Patrol. Most of the time, people who are arrested are carrying ID, but on occasion people give the name and date of birth of a relative or close friend, Neiman said.
Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Fairgrieve said in his 15 years in the prosecutor’s office — which files approximately 2,000 felony cases a year — he twice had cases in which a defendant gave a false name.
In one case, a person pleaded guilty and served time in jail. Later, the person whose identity was stolen contacted the prosecutor’s office and, by viewing booking photos and video of the court proceedings, the person was able to have his name cleared.
By that time, Fairgrieve said, prosecutors were able to determine the identity of the criminal.
“We’ve got folks out there who have quite a bit of criminal history,” Fairgrieve said. By giving a false name, one that isn’t linked to as many past crimes, they hope for a more lenient sentence.
Milesnick said Wednesday he does not know if his client asked Guadan to run his fingerprints.
“They should have taken that pretty simple step and done that themselves,” Milesnick.
Milesnick said his client has been sober for four years and has been living in an Oxford House, a group home which provides clean-and-sober living. In a statement released by Milesnick, Conley wrote that “at the time of the false arrest I was working to rebuild my reputation.”
Conley also wrote that he has another brother, Michael, who has also given his name to police.
He said that Michael Conley posted his bail, but only because he thought he was posting bail for David.
“So I caught a break … but not for the right reasons, and not from jail,” he wrote.