$3.5M award thrown out in Detroit case of mistaken identity

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DETROIT — A federal appeals court has thrown out a $3.5 million jury verdict for a Detroit-area man who was in jail for 15 days in a case of mistaken identity.

Marvin Seales said his rights were violated by the man who arrested him. But the court found that Detroit officer Thomas Zberkot had nothing to do with Seales’ time in jail.

Seales “sued the wrong man,” Judge Jeffrey Sutton said in a 3-0 opinion issued last week by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“That does not seem right — and maybe it isn’t,” he said. “But the key failings in this case of mistaken identities relate to the Wayne County jail and the people who detained him there. Unless or until Seales sues the right people or the right government, there is little we can do. We must reverse.”

The Associated Press left a message seeking comment for Seales’ attorney Tuesday.

Seales was arrested in 2012 while working as a technician at a food warehouse in Warren. Police were looking for Rodrick Siner, a fugitive who had used Seales’ name as an alias.

Seales was jailed for two weeks despite protests, although the appeals court noted that he said he was Siner at least once in jail to try to get medical attention.

“Officer Zberkot, as an arresting officer, had little more to do with Seales’ detention. That’s when the rest of the criminal process took over,” Sutton said. “He did not fingerprint Seales, interrogate him or for that matter stay at the (jail) where he could hear complaints about his innocence.”

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