Man who was wrongfully jailed awarded $3.5M

DETROIT (AP) — A jury has awarded $3.5 million to a suburban Detroit man for his wrongful arrest and jailing in a case of mistaken identity.

Marvin Seales of Harper Woods was given his verdict last Friday, about six years after he was jailed for 15 days when police believed he was a fugitive wanted for attempted murder, the Detroit Free Press reported. The fugitive identified as Rodrick Siner had used Seales’ name as an alias, but police had arrested the real Marvin Seales instead.

“I didn’t anticipate things would go this way at all,” Seales said. “I wasn’t expecting no trial, no judge, no jury — I didn’t think anyone was going to believe me.”

Seales was arrested in 2012 while working as a technician at a food warehouse in Warren. He repeatedly told authorities that they had the wrong individual. But Seales was jailed for two weeks despite his protests.

The federal lawsuit filed against Detroit and Police Officer Thomas Zberkot took years to resolve due to the city’s historic bankruptcy. Zberkot executed the arrest warrant that landed Seales in jail.

Zberkot has said his actions weren’t a constitutional violation. Based on the warrant and investigative findings, “it was reasonable to conclude that (Seales) was the person identified in the warrant,” he said.

The city has also argued that Zberkot acted properly, saying that people often deny being the person wanted in a warrant.

“The whole theme in this case is ‘Nobody listened to Marvin’ ... if they just listened to him when he was in the Detroit lockup, this wouldn’t have happened,” said James Harrington, Seales’ attorney.
The mistake was caught during Seales’ preliminary examination when the victim in the fugitive’s case told the prosecution that Seales was the wrong person. Seales filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court two months after the charges were dismissed.

He said his wrongful arrest was traumatic, emotionally draining and that it shouldn’t have happened.

“The only people who listened to him were the jurors,” Harrington said. “They were true heroes.”