A man named Joshua Spriestersbach is petitioning a court in Hawaii to vacate his arrests following a multi-year ordeal in which he was apparently the victim of a terrible instance of mistaken identity.
It all started when Spriestersbach (above), now 50 years old, was arrested outside of a Honolulu restaurant back in 2017 after he fell asleep on the sidewalk “due to heat and exhaustion,” according to the petition. Homeless at the time of that arrest, the man didn’t have any identification on him — but he was coherent, and told the arresting officer his name, his date of birth, and even gave his social security number.
Related: Kit Harington Says His Mental Health Issues Were ‘Directly’ Related To ‘Game Of Thrones’
At that point, he was taken to the Oahu Community Correctional Center for fingerprints and a mugshot — and that’s where the first major mistake occurred. According to his attorney’s court petition, police failed to confirm fingerprint data and instead somehow mistakenly came under the impression that Spriestersbach was actually a man named Thomas Castleberry.
So, he was booked for crimes allegedly committed by Castleberry back in 2006 that were still under open warrants, including a probation violation, promoting a dangerous drug, unlawful use of drug paraphernalia, and unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle. Spriestersbach only began to understand what was going on in the next few weeks, after he learned of the charges against him (Castleberry) and struggled with jail guards repeatedly ignoring his requests to call him by his real name.
Eventually, the Hawaii Public Defender’s Office — which had represented the real Castleberry on previous charges — recommended that Spriestersbach (as Castleberry) be evaluated for his “mental fitness” at the Hawaii State Mental Hospital. That’s where the s**t really hit the fan, because after denying he was Castleberry, doctors at the hospital wrote in reports that he was “delusional” and “psychotic.”
According to his court petition, not only was he forced to attend rehab courses on drug addiction despite not being a drug user (the real Castleberry allegedly was), but Spriestersbach also faced a disturbing catch-22 in trying to assert his identity:
“The more Mr. Spriestersbach vocalized his innocence in asserting that he is not Mr. Castleberry, the more he was declared delusional and psychotic by the H.S.H. staff and doctors and heavily medicated. He was given doses of anti-psychotic medications, including Haldol, which caused him to become despondent and catatonic.”
By November of 2019 — more than two years after he was arrested — a treatment team allegedly obtained Spriestersbach’s real birth certificate. Then, by January of 2020, a detective finally verified fingerprints and photographs that confirmed his identity — and also confirmed that the real Castleberry had actually been in a prison in Alaska since 2016. Spriestersbach was released from the Hawaii State Mental Hospital later that month, “when it was determined that he had been telling the truth the entire time,” after TWO YEARS AND EIGHT MONTHS IN CUSTODY!
Kenneth Lawson, Spriestersbach’s lawyer and part of the Hawaii Innocence Project, calls the entire ordeal “a gross miscarriage of justice,” and added:
“We help out those individuals who’ve been wrongfully incarcerated and who were actually innocent, and he’s actually innocent and was wrongfully incarcerated. This needs to be fixed because no one was helping. He’s doing a lot better now, but that trauma that comes with being locked up and especially against your will and be forced to take medications and not have anybody listen to you… it’s that fear.”
Lawson’s petition further goes on to make two more important claims: first, that the hospital doctors requested and reviewed records as early as 2018, but they failed to cross-reference the dates as Spriestersbach kept specifically requesting. Had they done so, Lawson claims, they could have plainly seen that it would have been impossible for his client to commit those crimes.
Related: Jeffree Star Addresses His Mental Health And Prior Dramas In Candid New Video
Even more disturbingly, the petition alleges that when Hawaii officials did discover the man they held in custody was not Castleberry, they allegedly held “a secret meeting,” of which it is “disturbing” that there is no public record.
The petition states:
“Instead of making a record that would prevent future injustice from happening again to Mr. Spriestersbach, they have attempted to sweep their mistakes under the rug, to the continued detriment of Mr. Spriestersbach. Perhaps they did so with the hope that because Mr. Spriestersbach has a mental health disability no one would believe what had happened to him or that he would not be competent enough to seek redress for what happened to him. Without the record being corrected and a finding of actual innocence, Mr. Spriestersbach can still be arrested again for Thomas Castleberry’s crimes, which this miscarriage of justice in Mr. Spriestersbach’s case ongoing.”
Now, the petition is demanding that Spriestersbach’s arrest records be vacated and corrected.
The poor man is now living with his sister, Vedanta Griffith, at her home in Vermont. Tragically, she told the Associated Press that he refuses to leave the property because he’s afraid that “they are going to take him again.”
This poor man. We can’t even imagine going through something like that.
Reactions, Perezcious readers?
[Image via Hawaii Innocence Project]