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‘Negligence at its Highest Level’: California Woman Claims She Was Jailed for 13 Days Over Mistaken Identity

Bethany Farber (left) and Bethany K. Farber (right) via attorney Rodney Diggs

Bethany Farber (left) and Bethany K. Farber (right) via the latter’s attorney Rodney Diggs

A woman in California this week filed a federal lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department and Airport Police, alleging that she was wrongfully imprisoned for nearly two weeks after arresting officers mistook her for another woman with the same name. Bethany K. Farber alleged that police violated her due process rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution over her arrest and subsequent detention in April 2021.

She claims that a case of mistaken identity so distraught her family that her only living grandmother had a stroke and died before her release.

According to the complaint, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Farber was preparing to board a flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Mexico on April 16, when she was stopped by the Transportation Security Administration and escorted to a private interrogation room. After waiting several hours, authorities allegedly informed her that she could not get on the plane because she was a fugitive.

But Farber, who allegedly told them that she had never even been to the state of Texas, told authorities they had made a mistake and asked them to look into the mix up and double-check her identity, according to the complaint.

“TSA comes and says that she ​has a warrant for her arrest out in Texas. Ms. Farber, this Bethany Farber, has never been to Texas,” her lawyer Rodney Diggs, said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. “At the time Ms. Farber was booked, the police do nothing to confirm whether or not this Bethany Farber is that Bethany Farber.”

The complaint alleges that instead of ensuring they had the correct suspect, airport police simply arrested Farber and turned her over to the Los Angeles Police Department. Officers then booked Farber at the 77th Street station and moved her to the Century Regional  Detention Facility in Lynwood where she was held without bond for 13 days. She was released only after her family hired attorneys in both Texas and California.

“At no time did City Defendants ask Plaintiff for her driver’s license, date of birth, age, social security number or any other information which would have proven that Plaintiff did not have any warrant for her arrest in the State of Texas,” the suit states. “City Defendants failed to do the bare minimum to confirm Plaintiff’s identity. By looking at a picture of Plaintiff and a picture of the other Bethany Farber, City Defendant’s would have realized Plaintiff should not have been arrested at all.”

In an email to Law&Crime, Diggs wrote, “In this case, what I can say is that they did not check the basic information to determine that Bethany K. Farber was not the other Bethany Farber.”

Diggs provided photographs of his client and another woman named Bethany Farber he alleged was being sought on an outstanding warrant in Texas. Diggs described authorities’ conduct as “negligence at its highest level” during a Tuesday press conference.

In addition to the civil rights violations, wrongful arrest claim, and negligence claim, Farber is also suing for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, stemming mostly from what she describes as her experiences during the nearly two weeks she was incarcerated.

The complaint alleges that throughout her stay at Lynwood, Farber was “stripped of her privacy” and endured things she never expected.

“Plaintiff was forced to endure many sleepless nights in Lynwood Women’s Jail, where she was so cold she had no other option but to put her warm food inside her sweatshirt to keep warm,” the complaint states. “Additionally, Plaintiff was forced to watch as the other inmates threw feces and smeared it across the walls.”

Further contributing to the emotional distress, Farber alleges that her arrest caused her only living grandmother to suffer a “stress induced stroke” from which she never recovered, dying shortly after Farber’s release.

“This was an experience that no one should go through especially a law-abiding citizen, you know this is why we have our amendments in place to protect us we shouldn’t be fearing law enforcement,” Farber said in a statement provided to Law&Crime.

Read the lawsuit below.

[image via Rodney Diggs]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.