Arizona

Timothy Diaz Sues Police Who Confused Him with Another Timothy Diaz

There are hardly any similarities between the 26-year-old suspect and the 53-year-old man who got arrested.

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|||Anucha Pongpatimeth/Dreamstime.com
Anucha Pongpatimeth/Dreamstime.com

Timothy Diaz is accused of 10 counts of sexual exploitation of children, and so police in Arizona arrested Timothy Diaz. Unfortunately, the Timothy Diaz they arrested is 53 years old, stands 5-foot-5, and has black hair. His middle name is Ernie. The Timothy Diaz they were supposed to arrest is 26 years old, stands 5-foot-10, and has brown hair and hazel eyes. His middle name is Dean.

Timothy Ernie Diaz is now suing the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, and the Chandler Police Department after being "forced to endure the humiliation and shame of informing his family and his employer that he been accused of sexual exploitation of minors."

The case of mistaken identity began in March 2014, when Jason Hunsaker, a Chandler police detective, found a computer suspected of facilitating child pornography in an online investigation. Hunsaker received a warrant to arrest the right Diaz and search his computer. The case was submitted to the County Attorney's Office a month later, and it was submitted to a grand jury in August 2017. It was there that Deputy County Attorney Elisa Ramunno mistakenly identified the wrong Diaz, which then mistakenly indicted him. Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies arrested him in September 2017, despite his protestations that they had the wrong man. He was booked, photographed, and fingerprinted.

The wrong Diaz's son soon noticed that the middle name on the Chandler police records was different from his dad's. He passed the information on to his father's public defender, who then called for a public hearing to call attention to the error.

Diaz's lawsuit says that the mistake took a toll on his livelihood, as the indictment showed up on background checks. He was also forced to pay 10 percent of a $100,000 bond and court fees for a crime he did not commit.

It is unclear whether the wrong Diaz's record will be cleared and if the right Diaz has been indicted.

This isn't the first case of its kind. A Colorado mother was arrested and jailed for sharing the same name as a suspected robber. A 19-year-old was jailed in Florida after authorities confused "Dakota" with "D'Coda." And a young man in Georgia spent nearly a month in jail for a similar mistake.

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  1. Timmy Dean Diaz is a pretty good name.

    1. Or, as he liked to be known: Tee Diddy

      Also, mental note: Never step foot in Maricopa County, AZ. Jeesus. What the hell is wrong with that place?

      1. Never set foot in Phoenix… hmm, I like the way you think.

    2. I’m a big fan of his chorizo sausage

  2. It could be due to how suspects are described these days.

    For example, a child was abducted by his father today, it was on the morning news. The father, and child. had dark hair and brown eyes. That was the entirety of the description.

    We describe people this way to avoid inadvertent racism.

    Criminals are very supportive of this sensitivity.

  3. “Jason Hunsaker, a Chandler police detective, found a computer suspected of facilitating child pornography in an online investigation.”

    Online investigation? Yeah, I bet.

    1. How does a computer “facilitate” child pornography? I would think either it is on the computer, or it isn’t.

  4. So long as grand juries hear only what the prosecution tells them, this crap will happen.

    There seems to be some confusion that because they operate informally, grand juries should operate unfairly.

    How can the constitutional right to a grand jury have any meaning if their only source of information (apart from their personal knowledge) is some hack prosecutor?

    Go back to the old days, let anyone share information with the grand jury.

    1. Another reform – let the grand jury hire special prosecutor if it looks like the regular prosecutor, or his witnesses, have been lying, targeting innocent people, etc.

      1. In particular, let them hire special prosecutors to investigate prosecutors who withhold information from the grand jury.

        If prosecutors are going to pretend to be impartial legal advisors to the grand jury, let them be held to that standard.

    2. “Go back to the old days, let anyone share information with the grand jury.”

      The put an end to that, because back in those days a grand jury could open it’s own cases and investigate without any input from a prosecutor and a lot of grand juries in those days spent most of their time investigating government officials. The government can’t have that.

  5. “It’s not our fault if Timothy Ernie Diaz’s name was in Timothy Dean Diaz’s file!”

  6. I think the real lede here is that having the indictment on his record made it hard for him to find work. This to me is horrifying and not how society should work. Even having an arrest record–which is a concept that shouldn’t even meaningfully exist when you think about it–can fuck up your life especially lower on the skill totem pole. In fact, you don’t even need that–just one enemy can decide to accuse you of whatever they want on a high-ranking extortion site like Ripoff Report and there goes your life. (Never happened to me yet but I live in constant fear.)

    This is one horrible societal ill that libertarianism can’t solve and I don’t see a way out. We’d need to build a culture where we pay these things no credence–and really, it’s not smart to but try telling a potential employer or date that. Maybe when there’s finally so much on the Web about everyone that we have no choice but to filter it all out.

    1. I think you aren’t thinking it through. These things remain in public view because government has zero incentive to correct mistakes. Imagine a private police agency kept wrong records around. They’d be sued for lies, fraud, perjury, whatever you call it, and not only would they lose and be responsible for this guy’s bills and correcting the mistake, they’d earn a reputation for shoddy records and unreliability; other police agencies, lawyers, and courts / arbitrators / mediators would quickly blacklist them; if they didn’t, parties to any dispute would pounce on teir shoddy record.

      You can’t erase arrest records from public view, they are part of history and did happen. You can’t prevent snoopy employers from looking for arrest records. But there is a difference between unreliable news reports and legal records, and I imagine that any employer who fired you for a newspaper report and not double-checking with legal records would also lose a lawsuit.

      All this assumes the government doesn’t step in and muck things up. That’s where the problem lies.

      This kind of problem happens over and over, and almost always is attributable to government. Friends complain about some business screwing them over, and when you press for details, it almost always comes down to government regulations and edicts and problems.

      1. I can sort of understand them not wanting to give him his money back. But in some states an arrest record can in fact be expunged. I don’t understand why that’s not an option here. At least that’s a start.

        1. No, I’d say find who’s responsible for committing kidnapping Timothy Ernie Diaz under the aegis of the legal system, and put the kidnappers away for a long time the same. Treat them like they’d grabbed Diaz off the street, stuffed him into the back of a van, threatened never to release him for several years, and then finally let him out of the van after hacking into his employment and credit records and filling these records with false accusations.

          1. Make it so that any search for Timothy Ernie Diaz’s name would produce results like “kidnappers of Timothy Diaz sent to prison for ‘shocking crime against an innocent man.'”

  7. I would call the accusations against him at the time of arrest as “credible”.

  8. Look, if you want crackjack hero first responders you need to pay better. And give them more autonomy and less oversight.

    1. What’s qualified immunity, chopped liver?

      1. Of course not, chopped liver (which ought to be a violation of the Geneva Convention) is vastly superior/preferable to “qualified immunity”.

  9. All Timothys look the same.

    1. Timothy, and you gotta admit it’s sometimes easy to confuse h and n.

  10. stay away from Arizona. check.

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