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Woman sues over alleged wrongful imprisonment

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ATLANTA — A woman who says she was misidentified and wrongly imprisoned when police mistook her Social Security number for that of another woman filed a civil rights lawsuit Monday against officers in two Georgia law enforcement agencies.

The Southern Center for Human Rights filed the lawsuit on behalf of Joyce Ann Tinsley, 47, of Dublin. The lawsuit says Tinsley was wrongfully imprisoned by the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office and the Fulton County Police Department because her Social Security number was wrongly entered on a warrant for a woman suspected of forgery in Fulton County.

The lawsuit says three sheriff’s deputies in Laurens County and three police officers in Fulton County repeatedly ignored Tinsley’s assertions that they had the wrong person.

Laurens County Sheriff Bill Harrell said he couldn’t comment on pending litigation. The Fulton County Police Department did not have an immediate comment.

The lawsuit says the problem began when a Fulton County police officer obtained a warrant for a woman named Joyce Johnson, suspected in a College Park forgery case. The lawsuit says the officer found two Social Security numbers that appeared to belong to the wanted woman, but one of them actually belonged to Tinsley. The officer used Tinsley’s number in paperwork for the arrest warrant, the lawsuit says.

Tinsley’s state identification card bears her maiden name, Joyce Ann Johnson. While the forgery suspect has the same first and last name, she has a different middle name, the lawsuit says.

The officer ignored the fact that other identifying information, including address, height, weight, birth date and state identification number did not match up, the lawsuit says.

Tinsley and her husband were arrested on Oct. 6, 2012, on a disorderly conduct charge in an unrelated case. Her husband was released on bond, but jail officials said Tinsley was being held on a Fulton County warrant, the lawsuit says.

Fulton County police picked her up three days after her arrest, the lawsuit says. The next day, when Tinsley appeared in court on the forgery charge, the judge allowed her to sign her own bond and told her to come back for a hearing two weeks later with proof of where she was at the time of the alleged forgery.

Tinsley returned to court later that month with evidence that she was at work and couldn’t have been in College Park at the time of the forgery. A prosecutor wrote a letter in May 2013 confirming Tinsley had been incorrectly arrested on a warrant for another woman, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says officers should have realized they had the wrong person when her address and other identifying information didn’t match. Tinsley is about 5 inches taller and about 50 pounds heavier than the woman they sought, the lawsuit says.

The suit filed in Fulton County Superior Court asks for a jury trial and seeks unspecified damages.


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