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Detroit Free Press Oakland County errors make least egregious sex offenders look like predators, suit says

 

 
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News for Public Officials and the People They Serve

Web Breaches | Lawsuits

Computer Error Tags Man as Sexual Predator

May 22, 2012

What started as a minor charge in Oakland County Michigan was transformed into a serious sexual offence by the county computer system and caused a thirty-five year old man to be arrested for failure to register as a sexual predator when he moved to Chicago. A lawsuit filed on behalf of Jason Zdebski alleges hundreds of people in Oakland county charged with minor offences be erroneously labeled as sexual predators.

According to a recent article in the Detroit Free Press, " The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jason Zdebski, 35, who says the practice caused him to be charged criminally with failing to register as a sex offender in Illinois. He said the coding also cost him his job as general manager of a restaurant and caused him to be publicly branded as a child molester and shunned by his neighbors".

Indeed he may have lost his job and been shunned by neighbors when his name and picture appeared on the Illinois State Police list of sexual predators. The Illinois State database may repeat the same error when it accuses Jason Zdebski of the crime of 'Aggravated criminal sexual abuse/victim 13-16" but states on the same page that the victim was over the age of 21.

Zdebski's troubles began in 2003 when he pleaded no contest to charges he exposed himself to an undercover officer in Oakland County Michigan and was sentenced to six months probation.

Zdebski moved to Chicago in 2006 and contacted local police to see if he needed to register as a sex offender and was told registration was not necessary. Zdebski landed a job as the general manager for a restaurant and went on with his life unaware that a computer error in Oakland County would turn his life upside-down four years later.

In 2010, federal marshals arrested him on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender. In court, the prosecutor called him a child molester and asked that bond be set at $125,000.

Zdebski's attorney, Jonathan Marko petitioned Oakland County Circuit Judge Rae Lee Chabot to correct the problem but before a hearing could be held, a prosecutor acknowledged the problem and Chabot ordered that the issue be corrected.

Marko watched as Chabot's clerk re-entered the proper conviction code for Zdebski and was amazed to see the computer still got it wrong. This time the computer identified Zdebski as someone who had sexual relations with an incapacitated person not as someone who had been charged with indecent exposure.

"This was a perfect storm of events," Marko said. "He's having to pay legal fees in Illinois and Michigan for something that was never his fault," Marko said.
 

Marko has filed a Federal lawsuit accusing  Oakland County Clerk Bill Bullard Jr. Prosecutor Jessica Cooper of violating Zdebski's constitutional rights. Marko and co-counsel Rachel Wisley are asking U.S. District Judge Sean Cox to certify the case as a class action, order county officials to fix the problem and compensate Zdebski and others affected to be compensated for emotional distress.

Can it Happen to You?

Computer errors in county systems are not uncommon and are resulting in lawsuits against county officials across the country. If you believe you may be a victim of errant computer data in county computers and would like to speak to an attorney anonymously, you can present your case for free at LegalMatch.com

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