Central Florida man receives $80,000 after mistaken arrest

Osceola County sheriff obtained warrant for wrong person

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – A Central Florida man who spent three nights in jail after being mistakenly arrested by the Osceola County Sheriff's Office has received an $80,000 settlement payment from the agency's insurance provider, records obtained by News 6 show.

Hector Acevedo-Rodriguez was erroneously taken into custody in November on charges related to a domestic violence incident allegedly involving a different man who shares the same last name.

Raymundo Acevedo-Rodriguez, the correct suspect identified by authorities, was eventually arrested.   

However, the state attorney's office later declined to file criminal charges after the alleged victim indicated she did not want to prosecute.

"I didn't know what the other guy did," Hector Acevedo-Rodriguez told News 6 in a brief phone conversation. "I was telling (deputies) I'm the wrong guy."

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Records indicate that on Nov. 30, the alleged victim stopped by the Osceola County Sheriff's Office to file a complaint against her boyfriend.

While driving home from a Kissimmee restaurant four days earlier, the alleged victim claimed Raymundo Acevedo-Rodriguez hit her twice in the face with a closed fist and held a gun to her head.

While filling out a document known as an affidavit of prosecutorial summary, or APS, Deputy Christopher Hart correctly entered Raymundo Acevedo-Rodriguez's name, birthdate and driver’s license number, according to an inquiry later conducted by the Sheriff's Office.

However, when the deputy later entered information about the suspect into a separate computer database, he erroneously selected a six-digit identification number assigned to Hector Acevedo-Rodriguez.

Records obtained by News 6 do not indicate why Hector Acevedo-Rodriguez's information appeared in the law enforcement database. A review of court records in Osceola and Orange counties do not show any recent arrests or criminal charges.   

Using the erroneous suspect information entered into the computer database, Detective Kristine Mele filed a sworn affidavit with a judge seeking a warrant to arrest Hector Acevedo-Rodriguez on charges of felony battery and aggravated assault with a firearm.

"Detective Mele did not obtain a copy of Deputy Hart's APS prior to completing the arrest warrant for Hector Acevedo-Rodriguez," a Sheriff's Office review of the incident stated.

Since Hector Acevedo-Rodriguez lives in Orange County, the Osceola County Sheriff's Office asked the neighboring agency to make contact with him.

After approaching deputies to turn himself in, Hector Acevedo-Rodriguez was booked into the Orange County jail on Dec. 1, records show.

Hector Acevedo-Rodriguez was later extradited to the Osceola County Jail until he was released from custody there on Dec. 4, according to a report.

Records obtained by News 6 do not indicate how the Osceola County Sheriff's Office discovered it had obtained an arrest warrant for the wrong man.

As Hector Acevedo-Rodriguez was being released from jail, Raymundo Acevedo-Rodriguez was arrested for allegedly battering his girlfriend.

The Osceola County Sheriff's Office did not conduct a formal internal affairs investigation into the mistaken arrest, according to an agency spokesman.

Instead, records show the sheriff's office launched an "inquiry" into the matter.

Deputy Hart received a "corrective counseling session" for unsatisfactory performance, according to records obtained by News 6.

"In the future, when entering information into the (law enforcement) database, ensure you enter the correct data into the required tables and fields and review your work for accuracy," a summary of that counseling session states.

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A sheriff's office spokesman did not respond to an email from News 6 asking for clarification on whether Detective Mele or any other employees received similar counseling.

Following the mistaken arrest, the Osceola County Sheriff's Office altered the way it obtains some arrest warrants.

"An internal procedure was changed for detectives to get the actual hard copy of the APS to compare it to the information entered into the system by the reporting deputy," said Major Jacob Ruiz. "We changed the procedure to add one more check prior to issuing a warrant from an APS filed by another deputy."

Nearly six months after his mistaken arrest, Hector Acevedo-Rodriguez received an $80,000 check from the Florida Sheriffs Risk Management Fund, an organization that provides liability, auto and workers' compensation insurance to the state's sheriffs agencies.

"As we have now received the executed settlement agreement and release, we will now close our file," a claims assistant wrote to the general counsel of the Osceola County Sheriff's Office.

No other public records related to the settlement agreement were available, according to the Sheriff's Office.

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