Misidentification sends man to Hawaii mental hospital
HONOLULU: Authorities in Hawaii falsely arrested homeless man for crime committed by someone else, locked him in public hospital for more than two years, forced him to take psychiatric medication and then attempted to cover up the mistake by quietly releasing him with barely 50 cents to his name, the Hawaii Innocence Project said in a court document asking a judge to set the record straight.
A motion filed in court Monday evening (August 2) asks a judge to overturn the arrest and correct Joshua Sprestersbach’s records.
The file exposes his strange situation which began with his falling asleep on a sidewalk.
He was homeless and hungry as he queued for food outside a shelter in Honolulu on a hot day in 2017.
When a policeman woke him up, he thought he was being arrested for the city’s ban on sitting or lying on public sidewalks.
But what he didn’t realize was that the officer mistook him for a man named Thomas Castleberry, who had an arrest warrant against him for probation violation in a drug case. in 2006.
It is not known how this happened, as Sprestersbach and Castleberry had never met.
Sprestersbach sort of ended up with Castleberry as an alias, although Sprestersbach never claimed to be Castleberry, according to the Hawaii Innocence Project.
Sprestersbach’s lawyers argue that everything could have been cleared up if the police had simply compared the photographs and fingerprints of the two men.
Instead, against Sprestersbach’s protests that he was not Castleberry, he was ultimately sent to Hawaii State Hospital.
“Yet the more Mr. Sprestersbach shouted his innocence by claiming that he was not Mr. Castleberry, the more he was declared delusional and psychotic by MSM staff and doctors and heavily medicated,” the petition states.
“It was understandable that Mr. Sprestersbach was in a state of agitation when he was wrongfully incarcerated for the crime of Mr. Castleberry and despite his continued denial of being Mr. Castleberry and providing all of his identification. relevant and the locations he was in during Mr. Castleberry’s court appearances, no one would believe him or take meaningful steps to verify his identity and determine that what Mr. Sprestersbach was telling the truth – he was not Mr. Castleberry. “
No one believed him – not even his various public defenders – until a hospital psychiatrist finally listened to him.
All it took was a simple Google search and a few phone calls to verify that Spriestersbach was on another island when Castleberry was initially arrested, according to the court document.
The psychiatrist ordered a detective to come to the hospital, who checked the fingerprints and photographs to determine that the wrong man had been arrested and Sprestersbach spent two years and eight months in an institution, according to the petition, noting that ‘It was not difficult to determine the real Castleberry has been incarcerated in an Alaskan prison since 2016.
According to records, a 49-year-old man named Thomas R Castleberry is in Spring Creek Correctional Facility in Seward, Alaska.
His relatives could not be reached for comment.
The Alaska Public Defender registered for him declined to comment on Tuesday.
The Hawaii Innocence Project document also claims that Sprestersbach had an ineffective attorney: the Hawaii Public Defender’s Office.
The police, the state public defender’s office, the state attorney general and the hospital “share responsibility for this serious miscarriage of justice,” the petition says.
Hawaii Public Defender James Tabe and Gary Yamashiroya, Special Assistant to the Attorney General, declined to comment on Tuesday.
Once the fingerprints and photographs were finalized, authorities acted quickly, but secretly, to release Sprestersbach in January 2020, according to the petition.
“A secret meeting took place with all parties except Mr Sprestersbach, who was present. There are no minutes of this meeting nor public minutes of this meeting. No entry or order reflects this miscarriage of justice that occurred or a conclusion that Mr. Sprestersbach is not Thomas Castleberry, “the court document reads.
His lawyers believe officials didn’t think anyone would believe Spriestersbach or care about the homeless man who fell asleep while waiting for food, only to wake up to a living nightmare.
Sprestersbach, 50, who lives with her sister in Vermont, declined to comment for this story.
His sister, Vedanta Griffith, spent almost 16 years looking for him. He moved to Hawaii with Griffith when her husband was stationed in Oahu with the military in 2003.
He moved to Big Island and then disappeared, suffering from mental health issues, she said.
“Part of what they used against him was his own argument, ‘I’m not Thomas Castleberry. I did not commit these crimes. … It’s not me, ”she told The Associated Press.
“So they used that as saying he was delusional, as a justification for keeping him.”
After his release, he ended up in a homeless shelter, which contacted his family.
“And then when the light’s on it, what do they do?” They don’t even put it on disk. They are not part of the case, ”Griffith said.
“And then they don’t come up to him and say, ‘We’re so sorry’ or, how about ‘Gee, that wasn’t you. You were right from the start.
Sprestersbach now refuses to leave his sister’s 10-acre property.
“He’s so scared they’ll take him back,” Griffith said.