A judge ruled Monday on the case of a Tulsa man arrested for a crime he didn't commit. It was a clear case of mistaken identity. The News on Six first told you about this case last week in an exclusive report. We were there Monday when the judge told the young man he was free to go.
Jimmy Howe had butterflies in his stomach when the judge called his name. Even though he knew he'd done anything wrong, he wasn't sure whether anyone would believe him. Judge Jeff Sellers not only believed him, but also even apologized that Howe got arrested by mistake. "Judge Sellers went above and beyond the call of duty," said Greg Bledsoe, Howe's attorney . "He took interest in a citizen and promised to set the record straight so this doesn't happen to Mr. Howe again."
Sellers is also the reason Howe got out of jail Friday afternoon instead Monday.
This started when Howe checked in with his probation officer. The officer had a warrant that had Howe's social security number, birthdate and address on it, but had the name of "James House." What the warrant didn't reveal to police was the man they wanted, House, was 20 years older and the physical description did not fit Howe.
The probation office got its information from the police department, which has Howe and House listed as the same person. The News on Six learned the reason for the mix-up is due to a car accident Howe was involved in 1996. His name was written on the police report as House. Thus, the names were linked up and when the warrant for House came out, the police department's computers flagged Howe's name. "It was not on the original warrant and was not on the information from the District Attorney's office," said Bledsoe. "It could happen to any citizen and it needs to be changed."
Howe and his family were relieved the name-switch nightmare was over.
"I'd been worried, " said Brian Howe, the victim's father. "Even though I had the documents to prove otherwise, I was still worried."
Howe just wants to be able to live life without worrying about a computer glitch which could land him in jail again. The probation office says it will change its records once it gets a letter from the judge. Probation will then send that letter to the police department so its records can also be corrected. The judge will issue a new warrant for James House,who's wanted for stalking.