SAN FRANCISCO / Gonzalez represents woman suing city in identity theft case / Ex-supervisor helps client wrongly named as fugitive
Read more: San Francisco Chronicle News Article Link
A woman who was arrested repeatedly over a two-year span because San Francisco authorities didn’t withdraw a bench warrant after learning it wrongly named her as a fugitive has hired former Supervisor Matt Gonzalez to help her sue the city for her troubles.
Stancy Nesby, 28, of Richmond was arrested seven times between July 2002 and September 2004 after a San Francisco Superior Court judge issued a bench warrant for another woman who had used Nesby’s name with police and missed a court date on a drug charge.
Last month, another Superior Court judge dismissed Nesby’s lawsuit against San Francisco, siding with city arguments that it had no duty to correct a warrant once it was lawfully issued by a judge and entered into statewide law enforcement databases.
But Gonzalez and other lawyers representing Nesby say they have new information that shows sufficient negligence on the part of San Francisco law enforcement officials, and they intend to file court papers Monday to reopen the case.
“It is a shocking argument to make in court,” Gonzalez said of the city attorney’s assertion that, despite the fact that authorities learned that the bench warrant had been issued in another person’s name, they had no responsibility to correct the problem.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Gonzalez said. “They are essentially making the argument that there was not a statutory duty to correct a false warrant like this. There’s a lot of ways that this thing should have been caught (and corrected).”
Matt Dorsey, spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, acknowledged that Nesby didn’t deserve what shed gone through but insisted that the city and county of San Francisco were not liable for the damage caused her.
“We’re certainly sympathetic to Ms. Nesby’s ordeal, and in Matt Gonzalez she certainly has a capable attorney,” Dorsey said. “But based on the facts of the case as we know them, there is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the city.
“The court has already held that Ms. Nesby has no basis for a lawsuit against the city. The city can’t be held liable for the actions of the Superior Court in issuing a bench warrant, and it can’t be held liable for the action of officers outside its jurisdiction” who arrested Nesby based on the warrant.
Under a San Francisco ethics law, former city officials are barred from contacting city agencies on behalf of a paying client. But this year, Gonzalez, a lawyer who worked in the public defender’s office before being elected supervisor in 2000, received a waiver from the city Ethics Commission that allows him to be in contact with the district attorney and city attorney in the course of his new private practice.
In the lawsuit that she filed in September and which was dismissed this month, Nesby said she had been arrested six times between July 26, 2002, and Sept. 16, 2003, in five different cities by police officers who turned up the bench warrant in her name during traffic stops.
After The Chronicle published a story about her plight, Nesby was arrested a seventh time on Sept. 18, 2004, in Berkeley, when police investigating a robbery noticed her sitting in a parked car.
In 2003, San Francisco police provided Nesby with a letter declaring her innocent of any crime. But they didn’t move to have the warrant withdrawn or expunged from databases, so the arrests continued, according to her original lawsuit. The warrant was finally recalled after Nesby’s case received publicity last fall.
In a new suit that Gonzalez and his law partners say they will file, Nesby will say that additional information her legal team has uncovered shows that city officials failed to verify the identity of the woman who used Nesby’s name. She also is accusing officials of sitting on fingerprint evidence that could have been used to quash the warrant while Nesby continued to be arrested.
According to the lawsuit, the impostor was arrested four times in San Francisco and booked into jail seven times in 1999 without police determining her real name or challenging her use of Nesby’s. Nesby’s attorneys say the city has withheld arrest reports and booking logs concerning the impostor, whose identity remains in question.
“Essentially, the city of San Francisco facilitated identity theft here, ” said another attorney for Nesby, Bryan Vereschagin. “How was this missed seven times? It’s outrageous.”
Identity Theft Victim Discusses Her Case – CNN Transcript
Read more: CNN News Article Link
WHITFIELD: And you can see more stories on identity theft on Anderson’s Cooper show, “AC 360,” airs weeknights at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.
And joining us live for more on this legal limbo she’s found herself in. Stancy Nesby, who is joined by one of her attorneys, Bryan Vereschagin. Good to see both of you.
Good to see you as well.
Well, Ms. Nesby, let me begin with you. Can you hear me okay?
WHITFIELD: OK. Good. Let me begin with you, Ms. Nesby. First, this has to be a nightmare as a victim, myself, of identity theft, I know in part what you are going through but arrests time and time again, tell me what it’s like for you as soon as you leave the home, you must have a level of paranoia.
NESBY: Yes, that is true. I just deal with it day by day. Basically, it is a nightmare, it’s really scary to leave the house not knowing if I am going to be arrested again or not.
WHITFIELD: So after the city had said to you, as we saw in the piece, that they would clear it up, what was your understanding of what that meant? NESBY: My understanding was that I wouldn’t go to jail any more, that the warrants were still outstanding but I would not go to jail. I had paperwork and so on and so forth. Promises from the police department and the police officials that I would not go to jail.
WHITFIELD: And so Mr. Vereschagin, why is it that you insist that the city bear some responsibility in helping to clear up her name?
BRYAN VERESCHAGIN, NESBY’S ATTORNEY: Well, the city’s position all along has been that they have no statutory duty to correct knowingly false warrants and bad warrants. We disagree with that. The city has also taken the position that it never arrested Stancy. But we have now learned new information and new evidence within the last month that indicates that that was a misrepresentation.
In fact, what we are dealing with are electronic warrants that are sent statewide throughout California. And San Francisco in certain of these instances was in fact having Ms. Nesby arrested even though they promised they wouldn’t.
WHITFIELD: So is there some sort of database or somewhere like that that can be corrected or where police, perhaps consult to see if her fingerprints match you know, this suspect’s or if she is, indeed who she says she is? It seems like there would be a simple database with that kind of information, right?
VERESCHAGIN: It’s not that simple. There are local, state and federal databases that all contain varying criminal information. In this situation, San Francisco promised Ms. Nesby that they would put in sufficient information into the statewide — California statewide warrant system which would prevent her from being arrested pursuant to these warrants.
We later found out in the course of litigating this matter that they did not put that information into statewide systems.
WHITFIELD: Well, we asked the city to join us live along with this discussion with you all but they refused, saying that their taped comments would suffice, so once again, let’s hear from Matt Dorsey, who is a city attorney representative on tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT DORSEY, CITY ATTORNEY SPOKESMAN: It really isn’t a question of whether we are sympathetic, we are. It wasn’t a question of whether she was harmed. Stancy Nesby was definitely harmed. This is something that I don’t think you would wish on your worst enemy. You pray it doesn’t happen to you.
But it really comes down, in this case, to whether there’s liability on the part of the city, to what extent taxpayers should be responsible for that. It’s our position and its our job to defend the interests of city taxpayers. That there is no liability. And the courts have agreed with us twice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So, Ms. Nesby, who do you hold liable for this terrible mix-up?
NESBY: Well, I hold them responsible, the city, because it shouldn’t have happened. The reason of that is if they were — if I went to court and I was, you know, I was given clearance, they should have went forth to protect me, rather than protect the impostor. They protected their impostor as if she was the innocent one. And here I am being treated like I’m really guilty.
WHITFIELD: Well, Ms. Nesby and Mr. Vereschagin, we are going to continue to follow your story and hopefully this will all be resumed and you can reclaim your identity and reclaim some normalcy back in your life. Thanks so much for sharing your points of view.
NESBY: You’re welcome.
VERESCHAGIN: Thank you, Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: Well, Mexico votes today. It’s an election that could have a major impact on millions living right here in the U.S., we will show you what’s at stake.
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