A case of mistaken identity led a Georgia man to be wrongfully arrested and jailed for 525 days where he suffered unrelenting abuse at the hands of inmates. According to WSB-TV 2, Randy Wiggins, who is mentally disabled, was arrested in June of 2012 when he could not produce identification during a police encounter at the group home at which he was staying. Officers confused him for Randy Williams, a convicted child molester wanted by authorities for his failure to sign up for the sex offender registry. Wiggins was arrested and taken to Fulton County Jail, where, despite his complaints that officers had mixed up his name, he remained for around a year and a half.
Wiggins’ attorney David Paul Scott told WSB-TV 2, “My guy didn’t have his driver’s license on him, so I guess out of convenience as much as anything, (police decided) we’ve got the right guy. It wasn’t the right guy, it was Randy Wiggins, not Randy Williams.”
For the next 525 days, Wiggins remained in Fulton County Jail with no recourse, suffering abuses at the hands of inmates who believed him to be guilty of Williams’ crimes against children. “If you want to be blunt about it, he was raped and he was beat,” said Wiggins’ brother-in-law Stephen Strong.
New York Daily News notes that investigators could have checked Wiggins’ fingerprints against those of Williams, which they had on file, but did not. Wiggins’ plight was discovered by healthcare workers at Georgia Regional Hospital after officials at Fulton County Jail had him admitted for a mental health evaluation.
Wiggins was released shortly after the mistake was identified at Georgia Regional Hospital. However, attorney David Paul Scott told New York Daily News that, in order to release Wiggins, authorities had to drop the existing charges against Randy Williams, meaning the convicted sex offender remains at large.
Fulton County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Tracy Flanagan told WSB-TV 2, “It’s unclear how the wrong person was arrested for the other Randy’s charges. This matter is under investigation, and there’s nothing more I can share due to the investigation and pending litigation.”
Wiggins’ family is suing Fulton County Jail and the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in federal court, seeking compensation for the wrongful arrest and imprisonment. His brother Stephen Strong called for reform, saying, “I’m sure he is not the first, and we need to implement changes so that he will be the last.”