LOS ANGELES – A Southern California woman sued the city of Los Angeles and two police departments Tuesday, alleging in federal court that her civil rights were violated when she was held in jail for nearly two weeks after she was mistaken for a fugitive with the same name.
Bethany Farber was waiting for a flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Puerto Escondido, Mexico, last April 16 when she was stopped by Transportation Security Administration officers and escorted to a private room for questioning, according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles.
Farber, of Los Angeles, was placed in handcuffs and told that she could not board her flight because there was a warrant for her arrest out of Texas, she alleges.
The woman says she informed TSA officers that she had never been to Texas, was not wanted for any crime there, and repeatedly asked to have her identity checked. Eventually, LAPD and/or L.A. Airport Police officers put her under arrest “without confirming her identity or checking her driver’s license,” the suit alleges.
An LAPD spokesperson said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
Farber and the wanted woman — also named Bethany Farber — “had nothing in common besides their name. (The plaintiff) is a young woman with long, blonde hair, while the other woman is older with short brown hair,” according to the complaint.
Farber was booked by LAPD, her photo and fingerprint information taken, then she was put behind bars for the next 13 days at the Los Angeles County women’s jail in Lynwood — until the blunder was revealed and she was released, according to the suit, which names the LAPD and the Airport Police among defendants.
“This was an experience that no one should go through, especially a law-abiding citizen,” Farber told reporters Tuesday. “You know, this is why we have our amendments in place to protect us — we shouldn’t be fearing law enforcement.”
The defendants “failed to do the bare minimum to confirm plaintiff’s identity. By looking at a picture of plaintiff and a picture of the other Bethany Farber, city defendants would have realized plaintiff should not have been arrested at all,” the 22-page suit contends.
According to Farber, she now suffers from severe stress, anxiety, emotional injury and mental anguish, and blames the death of her grandmother on the ordeal.
Plaintiff’s attorney Rodney Diggs said his client’s grandmother suffered a stress-induced stroke when she learned that her granddaughter had been arrested. Farber said she was able to see her grandmother at the hospital days before the grandmother died.
“In this case, what I can say is that (police) did not check the basic information to determine that Bethany K. Farber was not the other Bethany Farber,” Diggs said.
Farber alleges her civil rights, including the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizure were violated “with malice,” and that “reasonable measures” were not taken to determine her true identity before she was arrested, according to the suit, which seeks a jury trial and unspecified punitive damages.