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Man sues over mistaken identity detention

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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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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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