San Francisco Chronicle
Charlie Goodyear, Chronicle Staff Writer
September 21, 2004
Lawsuits and newspaper stories aren’t doing Stancy Nesby any good — she keeps getting arrested.
Nesby isn’t America’s Most Wanted or a career criminal. She’s a victim herself, ensnared by the legal system in a case of identity theft.
The 28-year-old Nesby sued San Francisco officials after she was mistakenly detained, arrested or jailed six times over 15 months, based on arrest warrants issued in the city. A judge signed the warrants after another woman gave Nesby’s name when she was arrested for cocaine possession, then failed to show up in court.
When Nesby learned of the mix-up, she hired a lawyer and got a judge to rule that the warrants had been issued in error. San Francisco police even sent her a letter conceding the mistake. But authorities never voided the bogus warrants.
Since then, Nesby has been arrested all over Northern California by police who think she’s still wanted. She sued earlier this month, leading to a story in The Chronicle, and thought that would solve the problem.
It hasn’t — not by a long shot.
On Saturday, police in Berkeley made it seven run-ins with the law when they arrested her outside a supermarket. It was the third time Berkeley police had stopped her on the mistaken warrants and the second time they had arrested her.
“We were actually going to a family reunion, and I never got to go because I was jailed,” the Oakland resident said Monday.
According to her account, Nesby was sitting in a parked car on Addison Street near Sacramento Street about 12:20 p.m. She was waiting for the driver, the father of one of her four children, to return when officers looking for a robbery suspect approached and asked for her identification.
Nesby gave it to them, then fished out her cell phone to call her lawyer. The officers ran her ID through a state computer listing all outstanding warrants, and up popped the San Francisco case. Police put the cuffs on her and took her away.
Nesby said she had been carrying a copy of The Chronicle story about her, which included her photograph.
“I tried to show them the newspaper, but they would not look at it,” Nesby said. “I was on the phone with my lawyer, and they told me to hang up. It was terrible. All those people on that block heard me screaming because they were twisting my arms.”
Four hours later, after checking her fingerprints and confirming Nesby wasn’t the woman who skipped on her court date, Berkeley police released her. She said they suggested she remain at home until the warrants are cleared.
“They said, “Why don’t you stay in the house until this is all finished?’ ” she said. “I said, ‘This has been going since 1999.’ “
Her lawyer, Jivaka Candappa, said police had no business approaching Nesby in the first place and accused them of doing so only because she is African American.
“This was total profiling,” Candappa said. He threatened to sue Berkeley for having Nesby arrested.
“This is too much,” he said. “This is over the top.”
Joe Okies, a spokesman for the Berkeley Police Department, said officers had questioned Nesby because the car in which she had been sitting was parked outside a market where a robbery had just occurred, and the engine had been running.
“It’s very frequent that people will lie to police,” Okies said. “People will say warrants were taken care of when they have not been. The officers were acting in good faith.”
Nesby’s lawsuit against San Francisco seeks $1 million in damages, claiming her civil rights have been violated because police officials haven’t taken the warrants out of the system. San Francisco officials have declined to comment.
One expert on identity theft said that as maddening as Nesby’s case is for her, it’s not unique.
“There have got to be thousands of bench warrants that are out there for the wrong person,” said Jay Foley, co-executive director of the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego.
Foley said people who find themselves in Nesby’s predicament should list themselves on an identity-theft registry maintained by the state attorney general to keep from being arrested again and again.
But police make matters worse because they are not interested in clearing out the bad warrants, he said.
“The warrants are not going away,” Foley said. “They’re looking for that person. The (law enforcement) agency — in this case either the San Francisco police or the Sheriff’s Department — needs to go back and change them to a John Doe or a Jane Doe warrant. But law enforcement has not gotten to the point where they’re prepared to do this.”
Stancy Nesby’s detentions, arrests and jailings as a result of warrants issued against her in San Francisco. Nesby has sued the city, saying authorities didn’t remove the warrants from a state computer system after a judge ruled they had been issued in error.
July 26, 2002 — Nesby is arrested after a traffic stop in Shasta County. Her car is impounded and she is jailed for three days.
Sept. 9, 2002 — Nesby is arrested at her home by a Shasta County sheriff’s deputy. After being fingerprinted, she is released. Shasta County authorities ask the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department to remove warrants for her arrest from the system.
Nov. 9, 2002 — The California Highway Patrol pulls Nesby over for speeding in Glenn County while she is on the way to the hospital to see her 1- year-old daughter. She is arrested and held for several hours.
Sept. 1, 2003 — Nesby is stopped for a traffic violation in Berkeley and arrested on the outstanding warrants. She is held at the Santa Rita Jail for two days.
Sept. 4, 2003 — One day after her release from Santa Rita, Nesby is arrested by Oakland police and jailed for several hours.
Sept. 16, 2003 — Nesby is detained in Berkeley but let go without being arrested.
Sept. 18, 2004 — Nesby is arrested on the outstanding warrants in Berkeley after officers investigating a robbery see her sitting in a parked car. She is jailed for four hours.
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I wouldn’t consider my case closed without providing feedback about how Mr. Candappa stepped in and saved me from an unbelievable nightmare. At that time, I lived 600 hundred miles away and was tempted to plead guilty just to eliminate repeat court appearances. Fortunately, Mr. Candappa came to my rescue, advising me that if I was not guilty of any crime then I should not be tempted to plea bargain. Mr. Candappa did such a good job that the judge dismissed the case and overruled one of the other judge’s earlier rulings.- R.N.
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