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Man sues sheriff over repeated mistaken identity arrests

A man whose name was used by another man as an alias in the early 1990s has filed a federal lawsuit against Collier County sheriff’s officials. The suit accusing the officials of repeatedly arresting him on another man’s warrant.

Theodore William Wuschke, 42, contends in a lawsuit against Sheriff Don Hunter and a deputy, that he lost a job because of his mistaken arrest. He also contends he tried to point out to the deputy that he doesn’t have a tattoo but the man who used the alias does, yet that didn’t stop the deputy from taking the wrong man into custody.

On July 7, 2002, Theodore William Wuschke was driving a vehicle owned by his employer  when he was pulled over on a routine traffic stop by Deputy Charles H. Smith.

Wuschke gave his driver’s license to Smith, who ran it through the Sheriff’s Office’s computerized database.

Smith then told Wuschke there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest from 1993 for probation violation under the name of Robert James Mickens. The warrant showed the name “Theodore William Wuschke” as an alias of Mickens.

Wuschke’s lawyer, Michael R.N. McDonnell, told the Naples News, “I Don’t have any idea who this person (Mickens)  is — no idea. All I know is it’s a stolen identity somehow.”

Wuschke told the deputy that he had been falsely arrested on the same outstanding warrant on Oct. 1, 2001, based on the same inaccurate computerized information.

According to court documents, Wuschke pointed out to the deputy that he didn’t have a distinguishing tattoo on his ankle that was supposed to be part of the physical description of Mickens.

Wuschke's father brought additional paperwork to the scene to identify his son.

In spite of the documents provided by the father, Smith handcuffed Wuschke and took him into custody. The deputy drove Wuschke to the Collier County jail, where, the lawsuit says, he was again booked on the 1993 warrant.

McDonnell said he wasn’t sure how long Wuschke was held in jail in 2002 or if he suffered any injuries while being detained.

A spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office, told the Naples News their office has no record of Wuschke’s 2002 arrest in their computer.

McDonnell said Hunter’s department should have corrected the mistake in the computer database after Wuschke’s first arrest.

Wuschke and McDonnell filed the lawsuit against Hunter and Smith on July 7 in U.S. District Court in Fort Myers.

Wuschke is seeking compensatory damages and punitive damages and to have his litigation costs and attorney’s fees paid by Hunter and Smith.

According to the lawsuit, Wuschke suffered pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of employment and loss of capacity for enjoyment of life because of the arrest.

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