On January 23, 2014, Ashley Nicole Chiasson was transferred to the Clay County Jail after being arrested on Florida grand theft and fraud charges. She was release from jail on February 19. She sat in jail for 28 days for a crime that she did not commit. On May 27, she was arrested again for different charges. She was taken into custody and for defrauding a financial institution and writing a bad check. She was released on June 4, because police arrested the wrong person. She should have never been arrested in the first place. The fact that this happened twice is inexcusable.
As a Jacksonville criminal lawyer, I have represented innocent people that were accused of crimes. In some cases, the charges were dropped by the state attorney’s office. In others, they jury returned a not guilty verdict. Ashley Nicole Chiasson’s scenario is very different from anything that I have ever encountered. In most cases, the police have arrested the person that they intended to arrest. The problem is that the person was falsely accused of a crime. In Ashley Nicole Chiasson’s case, she was not falsely accused. She was altogether the wrong person.
As anyone can imagine, this put Ashley Nicole Chiasson in a devastating situation. “In an interview with the Times-Union on Tuesday, Chiasson said the Florida sheriff’s office was ‘ruining my life’ and that the arrests have caused her to lose her home and that her daughter now is seeing a counselor, and her grades have suffered, because of her mother’s absence.” (nola.com) Chiasson was living in Louisiana at the time of her arrest and extradited to Clay County to face the criminal charges. The real defendant had the same name, but a different middle name. Ashley O. Chiasson was the real defendant, and she was sitting in the Clay County jail at the time of Ashley N. Chiasson’s second arrest.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office has taken some action. Action News of Jacksonville reported:
“Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler announced on Wednesday that two detectives and their supervisors have been suspended without pay, effective immediately, for their roles in the two wrongful arrests of Louisiana woman Ashley Nicole Chiasson…. The detectives and their supervisors have also been moved from the Detective Division to the Patrol Division…. General Investigations Section Detective Mark Maertz is suspended for 30 days. He made the initial incorrect identification in the first grand theft arrest of Ashley Nicole Chiasson in fall 2013, Beseler said. Instead of reviewing evidence or conducting follow-up interviews, Maertz used law enforcement databases, which led to the identification of the wrong Ashley Chiasson, Beseler said. Maertz’s supervisor, General Investigations Section Sgt. Robert Curry, is suspended for five days. Beseler said Curry ‘did not review the investigative or warrant documents’ before Ashley Nicole Chiasson was arrested and ‘neglected his supervisory duties related to detectives under his command.’ Financial Crimes Detective William Roberts, who made the incorrect identification in the second arrest in May 2014 of Ashley Nicole Chiasson, will be suspended for 30 days. Like Maertz, Roberts obtained a warrant for the arrest of Ashley Nicole Chiasson based off of information found in law enforcement databases, Beseler said. Roberts’ supervisor, Lt. Dan Mahla, will be suspended for seven days. Mahla did not review Roberts’ reports, Beseler said, and ‘this practice was routinely followed by Mahla because he viewed his staff as experienced, senior detectives with expertise in the area.’”