Courts & Crime

Tale of two Calvins: One keeps going to jail for other's offenses

Calvin Ward is nearly 6 feet tall and African American. Calvin Phillips, according to records, is about 4 inches shorter and Caucasian.

But Sacramento County seems to think the two Calvins are the same person, and that has become a major problem for Ward.

Twice last year, Ward was wrongly jailed under the name Calvin Phillips, and as a result his modest upholstering business has been decimated, he claims in a civil rights lawsuit.

The suit was filed in Sacramento Superior Court by the law firm led by civil rights attorney Stewart Katz. It names as defendants the county court and Sheriff's Department, the city Police Department, and several city and county law enforcement officers.

According to the suit, Ward's problems began in June, when city police arrested him for riding a bicycle under the influence of alcohol. At the county jail, Ward pointed out that his paperwork erroneously identified him as Calvin Phillips, even though he had presented a driver's license that listed his true name. Deputies "ignored his protestations," the suit says, and he spent two days in jail.

In July, he appeared in court and found that no charges had been filed against him in the matter, according to the complaint. But he was arrested again, on allegations that he had violated probation in another case. Deputies handcuffed him and took him to jail under the name Calvin Phillips.

Ward remained in jail for an additional three days, after which a judge recognized the case of mistaken identity and ordered him released. By that time, the suit alleges, Ward's upholstery business was in shambles, as he had missed appointments with a major client who then dropped him and refused to recommend him to others.

Ward has no criminal record, only a misdemeanor and a traffic offense, both of which occurred years ago, records show.

In an interview with The Bee, Ward, 59, said he is trying to rebuild his business but has had to take temporary jobs to pay bills. He applied for a position with the U.S. Census, he said, but was rejected when his alter ego's name popped up during a background check. He said he now is getting bills intended for Phillips from the county revenue department.

"I'm worried that this thing could follow me for the rest of my life," he said.

Guy Danilowitz, Ward's attorney, said he is uncertain how authorities confused his client with Phillips. Ward said he has never met Phillips, never used his name as an alias. The Bee's efforts to contact Phillips were unsuccessful.

A check of criminal records by The Bee earlier this week confirmed that the county was still linking the two men, nearly a year after Ward's initial arrest and despite various attempts to correct the problem. But after a reporter's inquiries on Wednesday, the information was corrected.

Nevertheless, Ward has suffered major repercussions and the lawsuit will continue, said Danilowitz.

The government has yet to respond to the complaint, said Danilowitz; city and county officials did not return calls from The Bee.

Read the full story at the Sacramento Bee.

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