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Teen Spends 35 Days In Jail Because Of Name Mix-Up

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File photo of a prison cell. (photo: JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of a prison cell. (photo: JEFF HAYNES/AFP/Getty Images)

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CLAY COUNTY, Fla. (CBS Tampa) - A teenager by the name of Cody Williams reportedly spent over a month in prison after he was mistaken for another criminal who was also named Cody Williams.

According to the Florida Times-Union, the wrongfully arrested Williams was imprisoned for 35 days and faced one charge of sexual battery of someone younger than 12.

The trouble began on Halloween in 2012, when the unnamed victim told Clay County Sheriff’s deputies that she’d had intercourse with an older boy by the name of Cody Williams. After getting a description and more information on the assailant, including where he attended high school, deputies began to search for the attacker.

Two months later, they placed Cody Lee Williams, then 17, under arrest. Due to the nature of the crime, he was charged as an adult.

Though the wrong Williams had been in trouble with the law before, he was still taken aback by the charges he faced at the time of his arrest.

“I can’t even tell you the horror of hearing those words,” Williams told the paper of the incident. “My heart just started beating really fast and all my insides just kind of dropped.”

Ultimately, the mistake was uncovered when Cody Lee Williams himself remembered a classmate by the name of Cody Raymond Williams that bore a slight resemblance to him and the wrong Williams was set free.

So far, three officers have received counseling for their role in the wrongful arrest, while another faces a 10-day unpaid suspension and the prospect of being transferred from investigations to patrol.

Deputy Sheriff Johnny Hawkins of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office will learn his fate next week, according to the Times-Union.

“As a result of your incompetence, an innocent man was arrested for an offense that he did not commit,” Sheriff Rick Beseler told Hawkins in a February disciplinary letter.

Beseler additionally noted that polices have been put in place to prevent wrongful arrests from happening.

“If those policies had been followed then this wouldn’t have happened,” he was quoted as saying. “This is not a routine problem. That’s why the supervisors are even being held accountable. We take this stuff very seriously.”

Cody Lee Williams is said to potentially be pursuing civil action.

“It seems that there was no investigation done other than my client’s name,” attorney Kristopher Nowicki told the paper, before adding that a proper line-up might have prevented the ordeal. “It is not Cody Williams’ obligation to investigate crimes on behalf of the state of Florida.”

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