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Valley man claims he was wrongly arrested four separate times

Posted at 9:51 PM, Feb 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-18 00:18:22-05

A Valley man is suing multiple Arizona law enforcement agencies after he claims he was arrested multiple times, even detained for 10 days, on another man's warrant. The other man has a similar name and the exact same birthdate.

Jose Rodriguez says he has been mistaken for Jose Rodriguez Meza on four different occasions since 2001. The most recent mishap happening in March 2019, when Phoenix police arrested Jose Rodriguez for trespassing at a relative's house and having drugs on him.

He is suing though, because during, and after, his arrest he claims police continuously insisted he had a warrant in Coconino County, even driving him up to Flagstaff to go before a judge.

"They do have the same date of birth, but all the other characteristics are really different," said Wendy White, Rodriguez’s attorney and Executive Director at the Southwest Center for Equal Justice.

Jose Rodriguez Meza, who was actually wanted for aggravated assault and skipping out on probation in Flagstaff, is roughly 5 feet 6 inches and 160 pounds.

"And our client’s height is 6 foot one and he weighs 310 pounds," said White.

The lawsuit names the City of Phoenix, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone, Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll and other officers and unnamed jailers as plaintiffs.

Rodriguez also alleges that "prior to [the 2019 arrest] he had actually been arrested three other times...since 2001, for the same warrant.”

In the most recent arrest, Jose says he tried to tell Phoenix officers that he was not responsible for the warrant and that the mix-up had happened in the past. The lawsuit claims that the officers responded by saying they "heard this all the time."

White says officers, deputies and detention officers all missed opportunities to take "ten minutes" and quickly investigate Rodriguez's repeated statement that they had him mistaken.

"Coconino County not only did not actually investigate or check the characteristics against Jose Meza; they ended up in putting his photograph into Jose Meza’s file, with the identifying characteristics of Jose Meza," said White.

After being taken up to Flagstaff, Rodriguez was eventually released.

"The judge did agree that he was not Jose Meza. And to...keep this from ever happening again, they simply dismissed the entire case against Jose Meza, so that our client couldn't get arrested again," said White.

As for the real Jose Meza, he did not get away.

"In 2009 he was deported to Mexico," said White.

The City of Phoenix told ABC15 they do not comment on pending litigation.

Meanwhile, Jose Rodriguez is seeking $500,000 dollars. He pled guilty to possession of methamphetamine after his March arrest and is currently on probation.