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Philadelphia woman jailed for nearly a week after being wrongfully arrested in mistaken identity case

Julie Hudson, a 31-year-old Ph.D. student, was arrested after being mistaken for a suspect with the same name over an alleged shoplifting incident in Texas.
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A Philadelphia woman visited a police station to find out why she appeared to have a police record despite having done nothing wrong — only to be arrested and put behind bars for nearly a week in a case of mistaken identity.

Julie Hudson, a 31-year-old Ph.D. student, had visited the Philadelphia police station on Jan. 5 after discovering she appeared to have a criminal record when she was repeatedly being denied jobs, she told NBC Philadephia.

Her hopes of resolving the issue were dashed when she was arrested and taken into custody.

Hudson, who is Black, would soon learn that she had been mistaken for a suspect with the same name.

A surveillance photo from an alleged shoplifting incident at a sports store in Webster, Texas, near Houston, in May of last year was determined to appear similar to social media images of Hudson, NBC Philadelphia reported.

“When you know that you didn’t do anything wrong, it makes you feel crazy,” Hudson told the news outlet, adding she has never been to Texas.

“Everybody is sure that you did something, that you’re [a] criminal, but you know that that’s not who you are," she said.

Following her arrest, Hudson's family contacted law enforcement in both Texas and Philadelphia in a bid to clear her name.

The Harris County District Attorney's Office in Texas said that after learning about what happened it dismissed the case "within five minutes," citing insufficient evidence.

“We accept charges based on the sworn evidence presented to us by law enforcement,” a spokesperson for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office wrote in a statement to NBC Philadelphia. “Tuesday, Webster Police notified the court of the error. We dismissed the case within five minutes and immediately contacted Philadelphia Police to release our hold on Ms. Hudson.” The Harris County District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to overnight requests for comment from NBC News.

“Ms. Hudson was in custody since 1/05/22 in Philadelphia on charges of FOJ based off of an active arrest warrant out of Webster, Texas,” the Philadelphia Police Department said in a statement.

“PPD became aware of the warrant being dismissed on 1/11/23 at approximately 5 PM after receiving a media inquiry,” it said. “At that time, we immediately requested that Ms. Hudson be released from custody and worked with the Philadelphia Department of Prisons to process her release in as expeditious a manner as possible. In addition, the PPD has opened an investigation into when communication was sent from the issuing jurisdiction stating that charges were dismissed.”

While Hudson was finally released Wednesday night, almost a week after being jailed, her family told NBC Philadelphia they were still working to get the mistake removed from her record.

They also said they are considering taking legal action over the incident as Hudson continues to search for answers over what happened to her.

“I want to find out what happened,” she said. “I want to find out how this happened and I want it to not happen to anyone else ever again.”

Her sister shared that sentiment, saying: “Julie just so happened to have a family that was able to get the information together, if we needed to get the funds together."

“It’s so many people out there that don’t have that. And that’s what struck a chord in me," Charon Hudson said.

In a statement Thursday, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner apologized for Hudson's ordeal.

“The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office became aware of Julie Hudson’s predicament last evening, thanks in part to media reports out of Houston and in Philly,” Krasner wrote. “I am not aware of any efforts by Texas authorities to contact my office directly about the misidentification of Ms. Hudson, which led to her arrest by Philadelphia Police on January 6 based on a fugitive warrant."

"Once the District Attorney’s Office independently became aware that Webster Police had confirmed to local media that they had wrongly sought Ms. Hudson for arrest, we mobilized quickly to make sure Ms. Hudson was released from custody as soon as possible," he said.

“Julie Hudson is a Philadelphia resident who has no criminal record and is pursuing a Ph.D. What happened to her should not have happened, and her family deserves a great deal of credit for successfully advocating for her freedom with the media in Houston and in Philadelphia," he said.

Krasner said Philadelphia police had followed standard protocol, but he said changes in how information is shared between jurisdictions could help prevent similar incidents from happening again, appearing to criticize the way social media was used to mistakenly identify Hudson as the suspect.

“If somebody wants us to send someone back, which we will do, under the detainer, there’s nothing wrong with letting us read your affidavit of probable cause,” he said. “At least we might have picked up the phone and said, ‘You did what?! Let me get this straight. You used social media to make an identification? Why else do you think this Philadelphian is committing retail thefts in Texas?’”

In a statement shared by the district attorney's office, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny commended the "rapid response and coordination between the Police Department, Courts, District Attorney’s Office, and Department of Prisons to ensure that Julie Hudson was released as quickly and as safely as possible."

However, he said: “We are dismayed by the ordeal that she and her family went through due to an erroneous warrant from another jurisdiction, and thankful that she is now home.”