Judge frees man jailed in ID snafu
By Nicole Bode
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
A Queens judge Thursday freed a Massachusetts man who spent almost a month in jail in an apparent case of mistaken identity.
"I don't think that you're the person wanted on this warrant," Queens Supreme Court Judge James Griffin told Jerry Santiago, 31, of Holyoke.
The legal mess began Aug. 20 when Santiago was pulled over for a minor car violation in Massachusetts and arrested when his information matched an outstanding warrant from New York, court officials said.
A man with the same name, date of birth and Social Security number had jumped $15,000 bail on a gun-possession charge in Queens Supreme Court six months earlier. That man also used the alias Jose Paulino.
Santiago had written proof that his identity was stolen two years ago in Puerto Rico - and there were glaring physical differences between him and the defendant, the judge decided.
For one, the fingerprints taken from Santiago didn't match the suspect's fingerprints, Griffin said. He was also shorter, thinner, and had a severe hearing impairment that was never mentioned in the original arrest records, the judge said.
"I've been incarcerated 22 days, and my children are worried," Santiago said, "I've never been incarcerated in my life."
Griffin ordered Santiago to return to court in three weeks for final disposition of the case.