Earlier this week a lawsuit was filed against an Iowa county and prosecutor after an Arizona man “was arrested, transported cross-country and jailed for a robbery that he didn’t commit.” According to the lawsuit, the man, Joseph McBride, ended up spending “two months in custody after “authorities arrested him at his Phoenix apartment on Aug. 24.” McBride wasn’t the only one charged for the Jan. 1 home invasion “in his former hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa though.” In fact, he was one of three who was arrested, “even though he had proof he was 1,500 miles (2415 kilometers) away and investigators never spoke with him before his arrest.”
So if he was so far away at the time of the crime, how did he end up arrested? Well, according to the lawsuit, the Cedar Rapids Police Department failed him when it conducted a “shoddy investigation…that implicated McBride based on the mentally ill victim’s ‘own investigation,’ which relied on Facebook photos.” The lawsuit also argues that the “complaint signed by Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden falsely contended the victim ‘positively identified’ McBride as a suspect and that police had phone and social media records suggesting he conspired with the other two suspects.”
The case against McBride stemmed from a home invasion and robbery of “27-year-old Tristan Hermanson, who told police that an acquaintance he knew as Elizabeth came to his apartment before two men forced their way in, beat him with a handgun, and stole money and his cellphone.” During the ordeal, he sustained “facial injuries,” and later “identified the woman as 22-year-old Elizabeth Navarro,” claiming she set him up.
It’s important to note, however, that Hermanson has been diagnosed as bipolar, and “told police days later that he had done his own investigation and believed the men involved were Navarro’s boyfriend, Austin Foster, and a man whose Facebook account called him Jody Holliday.” From there, investigators looked into who Jody Holliday was, but found that the person “didn’t exist, but used photos and the birthdate to link the account to McBride.” When investigators failed to locate McBride in Cedar Rapids, they discovered that he had moved to Phoenix in late 2015. Additionally, they also “obtained Navarro’s phone records, which showed communications with Foster and another man around the time of the robbery but no connection to McBride.”
Regardless of failing to properly connect McBride to the crime, he was charged, along with Navarro and Foster, with “first-degree robbery, which carries up to 25 years in prison.” He was “jailed in Phoenix on $50,000 cash-only bond before being transported to Iowa on a private prison van that stopped at jails in Nevada, Colorado, and Missouri.”
Throughout the ordeal, McBride contended he was innocent, but it wasn’t until October 9, 2017, that things began looking up for him. That’s when his attorney, Tom Frerichs, “filed a notice of the alibi defense Oct. 9, providing names and contact information of witnesses.” One of those witnesses even “attested that he celebrated New Year’s Eve with McBride in Phoenix and spent the next day with him rearranging a storage unit.” Thanks to the alibi defense, the charges were dropped on October 31, “a day after Navarro identified another man as the third suspect.”
As a result of his ordeal, McBride is seeking unknown damages.