A Liberty Township
man has been completely exonerated after spending more than a week in the
Porter County Jail--charged with a pair of Class B felonies--when his
attorney proved that a Drug Task Force (DTF) agent wrongly identified him as
a cocaine dealer.
Let the record show
that Steven M. Thompson is innocent. That he was not the
man--subsequently identified as a Steven Thompson with a different middle
initial and a different DOB--caught on surveillance tape selling coke and a
controlled substance to a confidential informant.
Let the record also
show that Thompson was incarcerated for 10 days at PCJ, after his arrest on
May 5. That he lost his job. And that he nearly lost his home.
Finally, let the
record show that Thompson’s attorney, Bob Harper, diligently proved his
client’s innocence and that DTF Director Bob Taylor--on learning of
Thompson’s innocence--apologized to Thompson personally and called his
employer in a successful bid to have him reinstated in his job.
“It really felt
like crap,” Thompson told the Chesterton Tribune today. “They were
trying to hit me with a six-to-20. They were trying to hit me with two
six-to-20s, two B felonies. It wasn’t really a fun 10 days. It wasn’t really
a fun month.”
“I was trying to
get the word out, ‘You’ve got the wrong guy,’” Thompson recalled.
And the cops and
the jailers would go, “‘Yeah, everybody says that.’”
“And I would go,
‘No, seriously, you got the wrong guy.’”
Thompson, his loved ones stuck by him. “I’ve got really good friends and
family who knew it wasn’t me, who knew it couldn’t be me,” he said.
“I get out of
jail,” Thompson said. “I get home. I realize I’ve lost my job. I’m ready to
lose my house.”
Here’s how the
The real drug
dealer was videotaped making the sale to a confidential informant (CI), DTF
Director Taylor told the Tribune this morning. Turns out, there is
a certain physical resemblance between the innocent Thompson and the other
one and, in any case, the suspect is wearing a hoodie in the video. It was a
good enough identification for the CI, who viewed the tape; and it was a
good enough one for the DTF agent, who prepared the paperwork for the
And good enough
isn’t nearly, Taylor said. “It was a horrible thing and my agent just feels
terrible that he turned in the wrong information. You really got to be
careful when you accuse somebody of something. The agent put me in a bad
spot. He put the unit in a bad spot. We’re very fortunate this doesn’t
happen more often. We make thousands of arrests. We just have to be careful
Taylor, on learning
of the mistake, called Thompson directly to apologize. Taylor also called
Thompson’s boss and asked him to give Thompson his job back. The boss said
that he would, that Thompson was “a very good employee.”
concedes that it’s tough to do damage control in this sort of situation.
“It’s a terrible thing.”
Harper, for his
part, cracked the case after getting Thompson bonded out of jail. “We got a
hold of the surveillance tape,” he said. “Although there’s a similarity, you
could tell it wasn’t the same person.”
At the same time,
Harper ran the license plate on the vehicle which the suspect drove to the
deal. It came back to a woman married to a Steven Thompson with a different
middle initial and DOB.
Enough to begin
work on a motion to dismiss the charges against Thompson. Which he was duly
doing when he got a call from the attorney representing the other
Steven Thompson’s wife. “And she said they got the wrong guy,” Harper
told the Tribune.
Harper filed his
motion on Friday. And Taylor and the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
discovered the mistake on Monday. Harper did say that, to its credit, there
was nothing like foot-dragging on the part of law enforcement, that once it
was clear a mistake had been made the wheels of justice finally began to
turn, and turn quickly, on behalf of the innocent Steven Thompson.
for all the inconvenience to Mr. Thompson,” Prosecuting Attorney Brian
Gensel told the Tribune. “And we’re doing everything in our power to
make things right, starting with getting him his job back.”
“The protocol we
followed has been used successfully in literally thousands of arrests,”
Gensel added. “But a series of unusual circumstances--including the fact
that Mr. Thompson has the same name as a suspected drug
dealer--unfortunately converged and a bad mistake was made.”
Thompson appears to
be better humored about the thing than would seem humanly possible. “It all
panned out,” he said. “I’m thankful to my friends and family.”
supposed to start work again on Monday, after his boss gets the paperwork
sorted out with HR.
Now he’s hoping
that the powers that be in Porter County see their way clear to stepping up.
“I’m not looking to get rich on this,” Thompson said.
But he did spend 10
days in jail, lost so many days’ wages, and nearly the roof over his head.
“It was tough.”