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‘I’m not the guy they’re looking for' - Man was stuck in jail after mistaken identity
Jorge Rodriguez
Jorge Rodriguez sits on his porch Thursday, May 27, 2021, after returning home from a job. Rodriguez was recently arrested and nearly extradited to Texas in a case of mistaken identity. - photo by By Scott Rogers

For two weeks, a Gainesville man and his family worried he would be extradited to Texas on a warrant alleging a serious crime there.

The biggest issue: He and his attorney say he has never been to Texas.

Defense attorney Arturo Corso filed a petition April 30, stating that his client, Jorge Rodriguez, was being held in the Hall County Jail “purportedly owing to an arrest warrant from the state of Texas for the offense of child molestation.”

Corso wrote that he believed Rodriguez was not the man Texas sought, citing the fact that the person being sought in the warrant was described as having tattoos.The Gainesville Rodriguez does not have tattoos.

“This is someone who’s not been convicted, and you’re saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got the wrong guy. You need to release me,’” Corso said of the petition.

Corso also claimed in his petition that Rodriguez has lived in Georgia continuously since he was 9 years old and has never been to the state of Texas.

“This is not the first time that (Rodriguez) has been burdened by court processes impaired by mistaken identity,” Corso wrote in his petition. “Some years ago, Mr. Rodriguez had his identity stolen when he was robbed of his driver’s license, Social Security card and other important papers.”

Corso claimed in the petition that his client’s stolen identity has caused problems for Rodriguez when paying taxes and renewing his driver’s license.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office provided a timeline of events from its perspective when contacted by The Times for comment.

Rodriguez was originally arrested April 18 on a charge of simple assault under the Family Violence Act for allegedly swinging a baseball bat, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Simple assault is defined as either an attempt to “commit a violent injury” or an act “which places another in reasonable apprehension of immediately receiving a violent injury.”

Three days later, a hold was placed on Rodriguez by a Texas jurisdiction.

Rodriguez was given an own recognizance bond — meaning he could have been released without paying a bail amount — for the simple assault charge April 29, but he still had the Texas hold.

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Jorge Rodriguez
Hall County resident Jorge Rodriguez was recently arrested and almost extradited to Texas in a case of mistaken identity. Rodriguez' daughter Claudia quickly contacted a local attorney to help stop the proceedings. - photo by By Scott Rogers

Claudia Rodriguez, Jorge’s daughter, said the family started looking for an attorney after learning of this Texas case.

“I told them, ‘I’m not the guy they’re looking for,’” Jorge Rodriguez said.

The Hall County Superior Court ordered May 4 for Rodriguez to be held in local custody until an extradition hearing scheduled for June. But two days later, the Texas jurisdiction told the Hall County Sheriff’s Office that they were releasing the hold.

Corso said the Sheriff’s Office contacted him after they confirmed with the Texas jurisdiction that his client was not the man wanted.

“My best guess is that the breakdown is the person in Texas who is wanted has not been arrested for the crime or for any other crime, so they don’t have his fingerprints on file,” Corso said. “They probably only have his name and a physical description, so there was no way to have a really unique identifier. … They put in as much information into the system as they can, hoping that somewhere he’s going to have contact with law enforcement, and law enforcement will look closer at this person.”

Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin signed an order May 11 to reverse the previous decision to hold Rodriguez in local custody, and the Gainesville man was released the same day.

Rodriguez said he lost his job and has been seeking new employment since his release.

Claudia Rodriguez said the family was worried what would happen to him if he was extradited to Texas.

“We were scared that they were just going to sentence him over there for no reason,” she said.

This article originally published in our sister paper the Gainesville Times.