A Florida 18-year-old spent 35 days in jail last August before police realized they arrested the wrong Cody Williams.
There are two students named Cody Williams at Clay High School in Green Cove Springs.
Williams was charged with the sexual battery of someone younger than 12. It wasn’t until Williams, then 17, was given court documents detailing the charges against him that authorities realized the mistake.
“I can’t even tell you the horror of hearing those words,” said Williams. “My heart just started beating really fast and all my insides just kind of dropped.”
Authorities admitted that investigators did not confirm the suspect’s identity with a photo lineup.
Deputy Sheriff Johnny Hawkins of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office faces a 10-day unpaid suspension and a transfer out of investigations to patrol. Three other officers involved in the wrongful arrest, Deputy Sheriff Jason Wright, Sgt. Daniel Moreland and Sgt. Eric Twisdale, will receive formal counseling.
“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, according to the Florida Times Union.
Beseler says the department has policies that prevent these kinds of mistakes.
“If those policies had been followed then this wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “This is not a routine problem. That’s why the supervisors are even being held accountable. We take this stuff very seriously.”
In 2013, a girl younger than 12 reported she had sex with an older boy she identified as Cody Williams on or around Oct. 31, 2012. She told police what Williams looked like and where he went to school.
Cody Lee Williams was arrested two months later, although Hawkins failed to show the girl a photo lineup of possible suspects. He was charged as an adult by State Attorney Angela Corey’s office.
Williams’ attorney, Kristopher Nowicki, says his client is considering civil action.
“It seems that there was no investigation done other than my client’s name,” Nowicki said. “It is not Cody Williams’ obligation to investigate crimes on behalf of the state of Florida.”
Williams’ classmate, Cody Raymond Williams, has since been charged and is expected to appear in court March 3.