An Innocent Florida Man Spent 5-Days in Jail After Being Mistaken for a Fugitive With the Same Name

Toby Hazlewood

Their fingerprints didn't even match

A Florida man, Leonardo Silva Oliveira aged 26 was arrested in Broward County last week, and released on January 25 after 5-days in jail when police finally accepted they'd got the wrong man.

Police were searching for another Leonardo Siva Oliveira, also aged 26 who was wanted for probation violation. While it could be excused as a case of mistaken identity, there appear to be questions to be answered.

The wanted man was known to have clearly identifiable tattoos on each arm, where the innocent man had no tattoos. Perhaps more concerning is that the Mr Oliveira who was arrested did not match fingerprints held on file for the fugitive.
Fingerprints being takenPhoto by cottonbro from Pexels

Finally, it was noted by the innocent man's attorney that there were obvious differences in size between him and the fugitive - the fugitive weighed 213 pounds when he was arrested in 2017. The innocent man weighed less than 150 pounds!

It seems a little surprising that it took 5 full days for the police to accept these pieces of evidence. But often, a few coincidences can be enough for police to detain the wrong people. It happened in Florida in September 2019, based on a similarity between the names and appearances of a fugitive and an innocent person:

An innocent man

His arrest outside the restaurant in Deerfield Beech, was the first time Mr Oliveira had-had any dealings with the police - he has no criminal record whatsoever. Nonetheless, he was put in jail while police took 5-days to confirm his identity.

Describing his time in jail, Mr Oliveira painted a grim picture of the experience:

“I was on 24-hour lockdown. I finally got out of the cell for an hour a day Saturday, Sunday and Monday. It was a little window, no TV. Nothing to do but just stare at the walls and try to stay warm.”

Mistaken identity leads to 17-years in prison

The 5-days that Mr Oliveira spent in jail were unpleasant and unnecessary, but others have suffered much more serious cases of mistaken identity.

Richard Jones of Kansas City, Kansas was wrongly incarcerated after being convicted of aggravated robbery. He spent 17-years in prison before his conviction was overturned. He looked very similar to the man who had committed the actual crime, but his resemblance alone shouldn't have been enough to convict him, surely?

Mr Jones was compensated with a payout of $1.1 million thanks to a mistaken-conviction law in the state. It remains to be seen if the innocent Mr Oliveira will seek compensation.

Have you ever been a victim of mistaken identity? Do you believe that the police have a duty to be more rigorous in their checks, or do you feel they are doing the best they can? Let me know in the comments section below.

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