A man filed a lawsuit against the city of Gresham and Multnomah County on Wednesday, Sept. 11, after an alleged clerical error led to his wrongful arrest and incarceration for almost three months.
Rafael Barajas is seeking $255,840 from the city and $10,000 from the county — which includes the loss of earning capacity, cost to expunge his record, economic damages and emotional distress. He also seeks costs related to attorney fees.
According to his lawsuit, in February 2017 an unknown city of Gresham employee working at the Gresham Police Department entered incorrect data and photographic evidence into the department's database, resulting in a false arrest warrant being issued for Barajas. The lawsuit stated a person with a similar name as Barajas, but different date of birth, was in custody in Cowlitz County, Washington, and was likely the person intended for the arrest warrant.
While returning from a trip to Mexico on Sept. 14, 2017, Barajas was arrested in Houston at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Harris County Sheriff Deputies told him there was a warrant for his arrest in Gresham for first degree burglary, fourth degree felony assault, felony strangulation, two counts of recklessly endangering another person, interfering with making a report and reckless driving. All of the charges constituted domestic violence.
Barajas was an Oregon resident at the time of his false arrest.
On November 21, 2017, Barajas was transferred to Multnomah County Inverness Jail. On Dec. 5, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Nan Waller ordered his release on the basis he was the incorrect person being held. Two days later Barajas was out of jail.
"After 82 days of being wrongfully imprisoned, a judge finally ordered my client immediately released," wrote Jennie Clark, an attorney representing Barajas. "Yet he spent another two days in jail because Multnomah County jailers still failed to release him."
The lawsuit said he spent almost 84 days in a variety of Federal and local detention facilities. The underlying case against him was officially dismissed on March 22, 2018.
"Does the systematic incompetence and lack of care of the city of Gresham and Multnomah County employees that led to my client being wrongfully incarcerated for 84 days, apply to all citizens equally?" wrote Clark.
According to the lawsuit, during his time at Inverness Jail, Barajas' wife left him because she believed he committed the crimes. The two were estranged for 16 months.
The city of Gresham's policy is to not comment on ongoing lawsuits.
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