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Man sues over mistaken identity detention

April 10, 2009

A restaurant owner from Illinois filed a federal lawsuit this week after a case of mistaken identity led to a three-day detention in a Lake County jail in April 2007.

Jose G. Gonzalez is suing Lake County, Ind., the county board of commissioners, Sheriff Roy Dominguez, jail warden Bennie Freeman, and various other unknown police officers and jail employees for his unlawful detention. Gonzalez, an Illinois resident, was driving in Lake County when he was pulled over for a traffic violation. After running his name, the police officer discovered a "hit" for another Jose Gonzalez with the same birthday who was wanted in Georgia. Despite his claims he wasn't the same person they wanted and the fact the Illinois Gonzalez looked nothing like the photograph of the wanted man, police took Gonzalez to the Lake County jail.

While in jail, Gonzalez's father tried to get him released, but was told by jail officials that he couldn't do anything and that Gonzalez was going to be extradited to Georgia in a few weeks. After three days in jail, Gonzalez was released without access to his car, cell phone, wallet, credit cards, or money. He wasn't allowed to use a phone and had to walk nearly 10 miles to his restaurant in Lake County. Nearly a month later, Gonzalez was detained again by police after running a check on his car and the same "hit" coming up about the Georgia Gonzalez.

In Jose Guadalupe Gonzalez v. Lake County, Ind., et al., No. 2:09-CV-091, Gonzalez is suing for multiple federal and state constitutional violations, including false imprisonment, detention and confinement, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and unlawful discrimination. He's asking for a jury trial and $300,000 in actual, general, and compensatory damages, including lost income for his business while he was in jail, and punitive damages of $1 million.

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