More than 760 days ago, a man who'd stolen the identity of Orange County's Chris Adrian Smith was arrested and convicted of driving on a suspended license.
That man, Jose Guadalupe Caballero, pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a fine and accept probation for three years.
Why should he care? OC law enforcement and court officials didn't hold Caballero responsible for his crime. They listed the conviction against Caballero's identity theft victim: Smith, an innocent Aliso Viejo husband and father of two kids.
Smith got court correspondence for Caballero's act, went to court to show that he was wrongly listed as the defendant in the case, got a court commissioner to issue a court order that said he was not the person involved in the matter and that deputies should not arrest him if the guilty person violated probation.
The court, however, didn't correct its records.
Of course, Caballero didn't pay the fine, didn't show up to a probation violation hearing and probably didn't give a damn that sheriff's deputies then went to Smith's home to arrest and incarcerate him for three days for something he didn't do.
Incredibly, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens' Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) continued to list Smith as a wanted fugitive even for six months after Smith filed a federal lawsuit accusing two deputies--Gil Torres and Virgil Asuncion--of violating the court order not to arrest him.
You might think that despite all of its screw-ups leading to my column, OC's criminal justice officials would wake up and correct official records by removing Smith as a named "fugitive" and guilty criminal.
The OCSD was willing to arrest an innocent Smith as a fugitive in the case, but to this very moment, two years after the crime, it can't bring itself to list Caballero as the wanted man in the matter.
I had to contact the Orange County District Attorney's office, which--I'm happy to report--promptly had court officials remove the "fugitive" tag from Smith's name.
But as of lunchtime today, anyone who runs Smith's name in the county court records system will still wrongly see that he is guilty of Caballero's crime.
The impact on Smith?
"I've been trying to get a job and can't because when employers do background checks they find these records that are wrong," Smith told me. "Who is going to hire a fugitive?"
Is there anyone in OC's courthouse that cares about correcting this unforgivable error of gross incompetence?
How about you, Judge Thomas J. Borris?
Judge Steven D. Bromberg?
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Judge Craig E. Robison?
Judge David A. Thompson?
Will one of you step up today and do the right thing?
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly