Story at a glance:

  • A homeless man was falsely arrested and institutionalized in a Hawaii mental hospital.
  • An officer arrested him in 2017, and he was freed in January 2020.
  • The man is working with a legal nonprofit group to have his arrest record expunged.

A homeless man who was falsely arrested and institutionalized in a Hawaii mental hospital is petitioning the courts after being released. 

Joshua Spriestersbach is working with the Hawaii Innocence Project, a legal nonprofit group, to have his arrest record expunged, Business Insider reported, after an officer arrested him in 2017.


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The officer mistook Spriestersbach for another man named Thomas Castleberry, who had violated his probation from a 2006 drug offense.

Eventually the authorities found Castleberry, and Spriestersbach was released in January 2020.

The victim is no longer homeless and currently lives with his sister in Vermont, The Associated Press reported.

"Part of what they used against him was his own argument: 'I'm not Thomas Castleberry. I didn't commit these crimes. ... This isn't me,'" Griffith told the AP. "So they used that as saying he was delusional, as justification for keeping him."

"He's so afraid that they're going to take him again," Griffith added.

Spriestersbach has been a free man for two years since the incident was cleaned up.

Business Insider reports that Spriestersbach had never met Castleberry.

Regardless, Spriestersbach was committed at the Hawaii State Hospital for two years and eight months under the other man's name, according to The Associated Press.

"No one would believe him or take any meaningful steps to verify his identity and determine that what Mr. Spriestersbach was telling [was] the truth — he was not Mr. Castleberry," Spriestersbach's lawyers who filed a petition on Monday said. "Yet, the more Mr. Spriestersbach vocalized his innocence by 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." 

The mistaken identity, attorneys say, could have been solved had the police compared the two mens' likenesses and fingerprints.

The Hawaii State Hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Insider.


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Published on Aug 04, 2021