Chaguanas man sues State for two-month lock-up on wrong warrants

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A Chaguanas man has sued the State for compensation for false imprisonment after he said he was wrongfully “snatched off the street” by Chaguanas police and locked up for two months on three warrants which were not for him.

Akiel Joseph was arrested on September 14, 2021, at Woodford Lodge. He said five police officers, all wearing masks, got out of a police vehicle and ran up to him.

He said one drew his service gun and pointed it in his face. His lawsuit, filed by attorneys Steven Mawer and Chaka McDowall, said he feared the officer would shoot him.

The court documents also said Joseph was then made to lie face-down on the ground, and when he questioned the officer, the policeman put his boot on his back and slammed him into the ground.

Joseph was handcuffed and put in the trunk of the police vehicle, then taken to the Chaguanas police station, where he was told there were three outstanding warrants in his name.

The lawsuit said he was put in a filthy cell with three transients,

He begged the officers to verify his identity as the warrants were not his. He also begged to call his father, but his pleas were ignored.

After two nights at the police station, he was taken to the Eastern Correction Rehabilitation Centre in Arima, where he said he was put in a metal container and given a piece of carpet to sleep on.

His lawsuit also said he tried to tell every prison officer his plight, but was told he was only “wasting his energy.”

After 23 days, he was sent to the Maximum Security Prison in Arouca. After a judge approved a writ of habeas corpus, two police officers went to the prison to take his fingerprints.

Joseph’s attorneys tried many times to get a copy of the results until finally, on November 10, they were given a letter, dated ten days earlier, which showed the police and prison knew he was not the person named in the warrants.

Joseph remained in prison until that date, when Justice Joan Charles ordered his immediate release.

He also lost his job during the two months he was locked up, and is seeking compensation for false imprisonment and unconstitutional arrest and detention.