Police arrest wrong person with same name, innocent Clay County teen spends a month in jail on sexual battery charge

Several Clay County Sheriff’s deputies were disciplined and received harsh public words from their boss after a Clay County teen spent a month in jail on a crime he didn’t commit. Police were investigating a claim from a girl younger than 12 that said she had sex with a boy named Cody Williams in 2012, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The girl told police what he school he went to and what he looked like, so police arrested Cody Lee Williams and, even though he was 17, he was immediately charged with a felony as an adult, the newspaper reported.

What police didn’t check to find out is there are two Cody Williams at the same school and they arrested the wrong one, the newspaper reported. Sheriff Rick Beseler reprimanded the detective in charge of the case for his “incompetence” and said police should have taken a photo of the suspect they arrested to the alleged victim for confirmation before making the arrest, the newspaper reported. Once Cody Williams learned more of the facts of the case against him, he realized what may have happened, and his mother pleaded with the detective to talk to the alleged victim, the newspaper reported.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office has requested that his arrest record be expunged, but that may be a difficult proposition. If he was simply charged as a juvenile in this Clay County Sex Crimes Case, that would not have been a problem because juvenile criminal records are sealed by the court. But because prosecutors immediately charged him as an adult – without doing any investigation on their own, it appears – the arrest is more difficult to remove. When potential employers or universities do background checks in Florida, they will most likely use the Florida Department of Law Enforcement database. Those searches pull arrest data from all counties and cities across the state and drop them into a report based on the person’s name and social security number. Unless the Clay County Sheriff’s Office does something it doesn’t do in other less-publicized cases, that arrest will always be there when someone searches Williams’ name. Now, it will also show that the charges were dropped, but Williams will have to explain it every time – and also check the box on any employment application that asks if he was ever arrested for a felony. Many employers only ask about convictions, not arrests, but enough of them do the FDLE checks that Williams may find it easier to let them know what they’ll find first, and explain the situation.

There are some employers that may shy away, simply because of the gravity of the Clay County Sex Crime charge – regardless of why it was dropped. It all could have been avoided if police would have followed their own policies and procedures. Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney knows how difficult it can be to clear your name if you are arrested for a crime you did not commit. Our Clay County Felony Attorney will sit down with you to go over the evidence police have in the case and will fight to have you exonerated, either through negotiations with the state or taking the case to trial.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Clay County Felony Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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