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Woman mistakenly jailed for 13 days sues Los Angeles, police department

Bethany K. Farber says authorities mistook her for a woman by the same name who was wanted by police in Texas, a lawsuit says.

A California woman says she was mistaken for a person by the same name and then held in jail for 13 days, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Bethany K. Farber, of Los Angeles County, alleges the ordeal began on April 16 when she was at the Los Angeles International Airport awaiting a flight for Puerto Escondido, Mexico, according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court’s Central District of California.

Instead of boarding the plane, however, Farber was escorted to a private room by personnel with the Transportation Security Administration. That's where she waited for two hours before she was told there was a warrant for her arrest out of Texas, the lawsuit said.

Bethany K. Farber.
Bethany K. Farber.Ivie McNeill Wyatt Purcell & Dig

Farber, now incredulous, tried to explain there was a mistake, the lawsuit said, because she had never even set foot in the Lone Star State.

“Plaintiff informed the TSA officers who prevented her from boarding her flight that she had never been to Texas, and she certainly was not wanted for any crime there. Plaintiff repeatedly asked the TSA officers to check again, and further informed them that if there was in fact a warrant for her arrest it was identity theft,” the lawsuit said.

The suit names as defendants the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Airport police and the city of Los Angeles. Faber is alleging her civil rights were violated, she was imprisoned falsely and the defendants were negligent and intentionally caused her emotional distress, according to the lawsuit.

The defendants named in the suit did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

While at the airport and detained by TSA, Los Angeles police arrested Farber without confirming her identity or checking her driver’s license, the suit said.

The LAPD booked Farber at the Lynwood Women’s Jail where she remained for the next 13 days. The lawsuit said authorities did not do the bare minimum to verify the Bethany Farber they detained and arrested was the woman who had a warrant for her arrest in Texas.

“At no time did City Defendants ask Plaintiff for her driver’s license, date of birth, age, social security number or any other information which would have proven that Plaintiff did not have any warrant for her arrest in the State of Texas. … By looking at a picture of Plaintiff and a picture of the other Bethany Farber, City Defendant’s would have realized Plaintiff should not have been arrested at all,” the suit said.

The Farber from California was younger than the Farber wanted in Texas. She also had long blonde hair, as opposed to the other Farber, whose hair was short and brown, the lawsuit said.

Farber, according to a statement provided Wednesday by the public relations’ firm working with lawyers representing her, said: “This was an experience that no one should go through ... we shouldn’t be fearing law enforcement.”

Farber’s lawyer, Rodney Diggs, said in a statement: “They did not check the basic information to determine that Bethany K. Farber was not the other Bethany Farber.”

While in jail, Farber’s 90-year-old grandmother suffered a stress-induced stroke and died shortly after Farber was released, the lawsuit said.

In jail, Farber suffered based on her experiences including losing her privacy, having to share toilet paper and witnessing human feces thrown and smeared on the walls, the lawsuit said.

Farber also alleges that while in lockup, Texas authorities contacted defendants and informed them the woman they jailed is not who had a warrant for her arrest. But Farber was kept in the Lynwood jail for three additional days, the suit said.

Farber is asking for a jury trial and compensatory and special damages in an amount proven at trial.