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Prisoner Makes Identity Change, Escapes From Court

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By Kamika Dunlap on March 12, 2010 1:52 PM

Robbery suspect Freddie Thompson managed to pull of the old switcheroo. He made an identity change and escaped from court.

According to the New York Times, Freddie Thompson, 35, switched places with another prisoner during an arraignment. The other prisoner was facing a less serious charge of marijuana possession and consequently, Thompson was mistakenly released.

Thompson who was caught for attempted murder and served prison time after pleading guilty to a lesser count including robbery charges managed to fool authorities by making the identity change.

It is unclear how exactly he was able to pose as the other prisoner during his arraignment in a Staten Island courtroom.

The mistake points to a series of recent problems by the area's law enforcement agencies.

In February, a prisoner posed as different defendant at an arraignment on a lesser charge. That fugitive, Michael Bautista, 22, is still at large.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has rejected the idea that the escaped prisoner exploited a possible loophole. There are ways to verify a prisoner's identity including checking pictures, he said.

But apparently that may not have been done appropriately.

Each year about 400,000 arrests are made and prisoners are processed.

The judge released Thompson on his own recognizance. Thompson walked out of court scot-free.

It wasn't until several hours later when the prisoner who Thompson impersonated asked why his name hadn't been called that authorities realized a mistake had been made.

Police Commissioner Kelly said police have already searched 19 locations and will continue to look for Thompson.

Michael P. Jacobson, former head of the Department of Correction, said letting the wrong person go is one of the most embarrassing mistakes a law enforcement agency could make. The incident also has brought up an opportunity to more closely review communications and procedures, he added.

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