San Francisco Chronicle
Charlie Goodyear, Chronicle Staff Writer
September 16, 2004
An Oakland woman was detained six times, arrested on five occasions and spent four stints in jail over the course of 15 months, all because San Francisco authorities failed to void warrants mistakenly issued for her arrest, according to a lawsuit she has filed against the city.
Stancy Nesby says she’s seen jail cells from Berkeley to Shasta County, had her car impounded and her children briefly taken from her.
“It’s caused a lot of damage,” said Nesby, who has filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court asking for $1 million in damages. “We had to move from our house. I was getting harassed.”
Nesby, a 28-year-old mother of four, said Wednesday that her troubles had begun in 1999 when San Francisco police arrested a woman for cocaine possession. The woman gave Nesby’s name and then failed to show up in court.
Two years later, Nesby learned that a judge had issued two bench warrants for her arrest, according to the lawsuit. She had applied for welfare benefits, and a background check turned up the warrants, said her attorney, Jivaka Candappa.
Nesby, who says she is 5 inches taller than the woman who used her name and looks nothing like her, convinced a judge she had been mistakenly identified as a criminal. The Police Department sent her a letter conceding that she had been the victim of identity theft.
It didn’t help, she says. Nesby has been detained or arrested 11 times since then because San Francisco authorities never removed her warrants from a statewide law enforcement system, according to her lawsuit.
“It’s hard to believe it happened,” Candappa said. “At first, I didn’t even believe her story. But it turned out to be true.”
City officials rejected her claim in March and declined to comment on the suit Wednesday.
Nesby said in her suit that after one arrest, in 2002, authorities had her children placed with child protective services. Her car was damaged twice after it was impounded by authorities in Shasta and Glenn counties, she says.
More than once, police have shouted racial epithets at her and her children, she says. Nesby is African American.
“They thought she was a coke user,” Candappa said. “They treated her badly because they thought she was a drug user.”
Two of the arrests happened within days of each other, her suit says. On Sept. 1, 2003, Nesby was arrested by Berkeley police, kept in a holding cell overnight and taken to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. She says jail workers there withheld pain medication for a recent medical procedure.
When a deputy public defender convinced Alameda County authorities that Nesby was the victim of identity theft, she was released with no way of getting home, her lawsuit says. She walked along Interstate 580 before hitching a ride to a BART station, Nesby said.
The next day, she was arrested again, this time by Oakland police, and held for several hours.
“They tell me I’m lying,” Nesby said. “They think that the paperwork I have is false. I’m just a nervous wreck. I’m trying to get my life back together, but it’s scary. Every time the police come around, I start shaking.”
Candappa said San Francisco court officials had refused to release to his client all the relevant documents in her case because they said they belonged to the other “Stancy Nesby.”
“There is no other Stancy Nesby,” the lawyer said in disbelief.
The lawsuit seeks damages against unnamed members of the San Francisco Police Department and the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department for failing to remove Nesby’s name from the warrants system.
Nesby says she has never met the woman who used her name.
“It’s just an ongoing thing that has to stop one day,” she said. “I just can’t imagine going through this my whole entire life.”
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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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