Lifestyle & Belief

Anthony Ortiz, jailed due to mistaken identity, gets $70K settlement from Santa Fe County


The Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Steve Snowden

An innocent New Mexico man who was mistaken for a wanted man and jailed for four days has received a $70,000 settlement  from Santa Fe County.

Anthony Ortiz, 39, was pulled over in Rio Rancho, NM, for speeding in June 2009, then arrested when his name matched that of another Anthony Ortiz, who was wanted on a 1996 domestic violence charge.

The arresting officer, as well as Sandoval County and Santa Fe County jail officials, ignored Ortiz’s protests that they had the wrong guy, or that his birth date was different than the one on the warrant, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

“An innocent man spent four days in jail and kept telling everyone that they had the wrong guy, but nobody did anything about it,” Ortiz’s attorney, John Day, told the New Mexican.

Santa Fe County Magistrate George Anaya released Ortiz from custody when he showed up in his court, remarking, “If the officer said, ‘That’s close enough,’ that’s not acceptable to me,” the New Mexican reported.

Ortiz, who’d never even received a traffic ticket, did not have a criminal record, but he once made a 911 call when he lived in Santa Fe County, the Albuquerque Journal reported. That put his Social Security number in Santa Fe County’s database, which added to the confusion years later.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, when the warrant was issued for the other Anthony Ortiz, it didn’t include a Social Security number, so a secretary checked the county’s databases and added the innocent Ortiz’s number from the unrelated log of 911 calls instead.

A Santa Fe County Sheriff’s lieutenant called the error an “honest data entry mistake,” the Albuquerque Journal reported.

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