Spriestersbach had been somehow mistaken for Thomas Castleberry, a man wanted under a warrant in Hawaii for breaking his probation in a drug case in 2006. He was arrested in 2017 and locked up in state hospital Hawaii, where he repeatedly tried to convince anyone, including his own public defenders, that he was innocent.
A psychiatrist eventually looked at his claims and found them to be true, but that wasn’t the end of the story for Sprestersbach. Instead, Hawaii officials reportedly tried to cover up their mistake and quietly released him without a dollar in his name – and without correcting the record of his arrest.
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The Hawaii Innocence Project is now trying to set the record straight, with a petition filed Monday to overturn Sprestersbach’s arrest and correct his criminal record.
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The file explains how Sprestersbach was first arrested in 2017, after a police officer mistook him for Castleberry on the streets of Honolulu.
Sprestersbach, who is homeless, was queuing for food outside a shelter when he fell asleep in the scorching sun, according to the Hawaii Innocence Project. The officer woke him up and arrested him on the spot.
Sprestersbach assumed he was arrested for breaking a law prohibiting sitting or lying on the sidewalk. But he was wrong.
It is not known how the confusion arose, but Sprestersbach was somehow considered to be one of Castleberry’s aliases, and authorities have proceeded as if it were true. The Hawaii Innocence Project maintains that the police likely did not verify the photos or fingerprints to confirm their suspicions, as it would quickly have shown that Spriestersbach and Castleberry were two different men.
“Instead of taking five minutes to just get the photo, or Google the real Castleberry, they would have found out that the real Thomas Castleberry had been locked up in Alaska since 2015. He’s still in jail now,” said Ken, co-founder of the Hawaii Innocence Project. Lawson told KITV.
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“The more Mr. Sprestersbach snapped his innocence by claiming that he was not Mr. Castleberry, the more he was declared delusional and psychotic by MSM staff and doctors and heavily medicated,” the petition states.
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“It was understandable that Mr. Sprestersbach was in a state of turmoil when he was wrongfully incarcerated for the crime of Mr. Castleberry and despite his continued denial of being Mr. Castleberry and providing all of his identification. relevant and the locations he was in while Mr. In Castleberry court appearances, no one would believe him or take meaningful steps to verify his identity and determine that Mr. Sprestersbach was telling the truth – he was not Mr. Castleberry.
The petition gives credit to a psychiatrist in isolation from the hospital for uncovering the error, despite it occurring two years and eight months after his arrest. The psychiatrist listened to Sprestersbach’s claims, then made a few phone calls and checked the internet to confirm his story.
Ultimately, the psychiatrist found it was impossible for Castleberry to be in hospital in Hawaii, as he had been locked in an Alaskan prison since 2016.
Hospital staff confirmed the error with fingerprints and photos, then decided to release Sprestersbach in January 2020, according to the petition.
“A secret meeting took place with all parties except Mr Sprestersbach, present. There are no minutes of this meeting nor public minutes of this meeting. No entry or order reflects this miscarriage of justice that occurred or a finding that Mr. Sprestersbach is not Thomas Castleberry, ”the court document said.
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The police, the state public defender’s office, the state attorney general and the hospital “share responsibility for this serious miscarriage of justice,” the petition says.
“I think they were hoping because he has mental health issues, because he’s homeless, no one would believe his story,” Lawson said.
The Castleberry, Alaska public defender declined to comment on The Associated Press. Hawaii Public Defender James Tabe, Gary Yamashiroya, special assistant to the attorney general, and Matt Dvonch, spokesperson for the Honolulu attorney’s office, also declined to comment.
Sprestersbach, now 50, currently lives with his sister in Vermont, where he lives in fear of being taken back to hospital. He apparently wouldn’t leave the property.
“He’s so scared they’ll take him back,” his sister, Vedanta Griffith, told the AP.
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Griffith says she spent almost 16 years looking after her brother, but he disappeared in 2003 after moving with her and her husband to Oahu. She said he was suffering from mental health issues at the time.
“Part of what they used against him was his own argument: ‘I’m not Thomas Castleberry. I did not commit these crimes. … It’s not me, ”she told The Associated Press. “So they used that to say he was delusional, as a justification for keeping him. “
She added that she only learned of her ordeal after her release, when a homeless shelter reached out on her behalf.
“And then when the light’s on it, what do they do?” They don’t even put it on disk. They are not part of the case, ”Griffith said. “And then they don’t come up to him and say, ‘We’re so sorry’ or, how about” Gee, it wasn’t you. You were right from the start.
–With files from the Associated Press
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