Norfolk man mistakenly sentenced to 5 days in jail for child abuse, lawsuit alleges – Daily News

Whittier Police Department Headquarters 13200 Penn St. (Google Street View)

A case of mistaken identity landed a man in the Los Angeles County Jail for five days after Wheater police illegally arrested him on an active child abuse warrant, according to a federal lawsuit filed this week.

The lawsuit alleges that Victor Manuel Martinez Wario of Norwalk was falsely imprisoned in 2023 at Men’s Central Jail, where he was put at risk of assault by inmates because he was forced to wear a specially colored jumpsuit that indicated his status as a sex offender and a wristband. Suspected child abusers are being held.

Vario, 42, claims his civil rights were violated and he is seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit, which names the city of Whittier, the Whittier Police Department, Los Angeles County and its Sheriff’s Department as defendants.

In a statement, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said its deputies were not responsible for Vario’s arrest.

“However, all inmates processed at our Inmate Reception Center undergo a rigorous classification process and are appropriately housed according to their classification,” the statement said.

Whittier police declined to comment.

Wario’s vehicle was impounded on March 12, 2023 at 9:30 pm for a minor traffic violation. Subsequently, Whittier police mistakenly determined Wario had an active warrant and arrested him, said his attorney, David Gammill. However, the lawsuit says Wario told officers he had no warrants or criminal record.

Later, during the booking process, officers informed Wario that the warrant was related to an old case in which he was convicted of child abuse.

“Aton. Vario repeatedly told them they had the wrong person and that his only criminal history was a felony conviction for driving under the influence more than seven years ago,” the lawsuit states.

It was later discovered that the child abuse case stemmed from a Sept. 21, 2012, conviction in Los Angeles County of a person who failed to check with the county probation department and register as a sex offender, the lawsuit said.

More than two days after his arrest, Wario was transferred to Men’s Central Jail, where he was moved to special housing for accused child abusers, according to the lawsuit.

During Vario’s questioning hours later, his lawyer informed the court that the wrong accused had been arrested.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Lou Villar set Vario’s bail at $30,000 but refused to release him and ordered a fingerprint expert to take his fingerprints and verify his identity.

After the trial, a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney obtained a booking photo of the actual defendant in the child abuse case and determined that it was not Wario.

“The two men have the same name, they’re both men, and they’re both Hispanic, and that’s where the similarities end,” Gammil said. “They are nothing alike. It’s terrifying.”

Villar ordered Wario released on March 17, 2023, five days after his arrest.

Gammil said Wario missed time at work and was unable to care for his disabled fiancee because of his prison term.

“It was an absolute failure of our system,” he added. “A moment to confirm Mr Wario’s identity and claim he was innocent would have prevented five days of psychological suffering.”

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