A West Virginia State WR Wrongfully Spent Four Days In Jail Over A Crazy Case Of Mistaken Identity

  • Eric Goldschein

wvsu johnsonThink about this the next time you make an illegal U-turn — though, if you’re white, we doubt you’ll experience the same kind of consequences Jawon Johnson suffered for his ill-fated attempt at quickening his commute while home for the holidays.

Johnson, a freshman and wide receiver at West Virginia State University, was just released from a four-day stay in prison, for the crime of living in the same geographic region as a burglar — and also sharing that burglar’s birthday, and having almost the same name as that burglar. But, again, not actually being a burglar.

From CBS Baltimore:

[Johnson] was pulled over by a Havre de Grace police officer for making an illegal U-turn. He expected to be handed a ticket, but after an hour he was handcuffed and taken to the Harford County Detention Center on a federal warrant.

“I told them the picture wasn’t me. They continued and insisted on, in fact, it was me,” said Johnson.

Jawon, with an “o”, was accused of being another Jawan Johnson involved in a burglary case in D.C. The man wanted by the federal government spells his name with an “a”. It took police four days to realize their mistake. All the while, Johnson sat behind bars innocent.

“I was in the cell 23 hours a day,” he said.

Johnson was eventually released once his fingerprints confirmed that he was not “Jawan” but “Jawon,” as he claimed. The police told the Baltimore Sun that the photos of the two Johnsons “seemed to match up,” which is like when people say they can’t tell Wesley Snipes and Arsenio Hall apart.

Whether the police really thought they were doing the right thing, or they figured a guy in (innocent) Johnson’s position couldn’t do anything about it anyway, we can’t imagine how traumatizing it must have been for the 18-year-old. Here’s to hoping we don’t see more of this “Eh, close enough” detective work anytime soon (spoiler: it will).

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