An innocent man spent 10 days in jail, faced felony charges that carried a potential sentence of 20 years in prison, and lost his job because he had the same first and last names as a suspected heroin dealer.
A local drug taskforce arrested Steven M. Thompson at his home early on the morning of May 5. The arresting officers thought they had a warrant for a heroin dealer named Steven P. Thompson. Instead, they had picked up a single father with a steady job at the local steel mill.
“He was arrested in front of the family, [and] he did nothing wrong,” Bob Taylor, the director of the Porter County Drug Taskforce in Northern Indiana, admitted. “And I’m extremely sorry for it.”
Thompson was arrested on a warrant with Steven P. Thompson’s name on it that listed his address and birthday. Steven P. Thompson is three years younger than Steven M. Thompson.
“It’s horrible,” Steven M. Thompson said. “I’m sitting in a cell that has two beds and there’s three people in there.”
He was taken from his home with no warning.
“Just gone in a matter of minutes, you know, as soon as they put the hand cuffs on,” he said.
Fired For Something He Didn’t Do
Thompson spent 10 days in the cell while he waited for police and prosecutors to clear his name. During his stretch in the slammer, Thompson lost his job at Arcelor-Mittal Steel. His boss had heard about the arrest and fired him.
The ordeal got worse when Thompson had to borrow money from family to pay bills and cover bail money. Thompson didn’t get his job back even though Taylor called Arcelor-Mittal and recommended that Thompson be rehired.
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“Something’s got to catch. They’ve got to know this is an innocent person sitting here,” Thompson said of the Taskforce.
He Looked Like a Heroin Dealer
Thompson was arrested because of misinformation from a snitch, Taylor said. The informant thought Steven P. Thompson was Steven M. Thompson.
“They looked similar to one another but not identical,” Taylor said. “The informant gave him the wrong information.”
Taylor didn’t say how Steven M. Thompson’s information ended up on a warrant for Steven P. Thompson.
Steven M. Thompson is now back at home in Chesterton, Indiana, near Chicago with his family. News stories didn’t say whether he is planning any legal action against the Porter County Drug Taskforce. The charges against him have been dropped.
Ironically enough, Steven P. Thompson is still on the street, presumably dealing heroin, Leah Hope of Chicago’s ABC 7 News reported.
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