Last August, Cody Williams, a then 17-year-old student at a US school was arrested for sexual battery of a minor. He then spent 35 days in jail. The Florida Times-Union, which reported the story, puts it best, “One problem: He was the wrong Cody Williams.”
In 2013, a 12-year-old girl went to the Clay Sheriff’s office in Florida and told officers that she had had sex with an older boy – Cody Williams.
According to the Times-Union, “The girl told police investigators what the boy looked like and where he attended school. Without showing her any photos of possible suspects, the sheriff’s office sought the arrest of Cody Lee Williams.”
Cody was then arrested on a sexual battery charge, and charged as an adult by the State Attorney’s office.
How did this happen? It seems to boil down the simple fact that Deputy Sheriff Johnny Hawkins did not give the victim a picture of the wrong Cody to confirm they were going to go after the right guy.
An internal report on an investigation of Hawkins states, “He stressed that he usually will show a photo lineup but could not explain why he did not in this incident.”
Meanwhile, Cody, now 18-year-old, was mortified over what he was charged with, telling the Times-Union, “I can’t even tell you the horror of hearing those words. My heart just started beating really fast and all my insides just kind of dropped.”
Later, after looking at documents of the charges against him, he figured out what was going on. The police probably didn’t want him, Cody Lee Williams, but rather a classmate of his, Cody Raymond Williams.
As Cody Lee Williams told the paper, “We were just two guys with the same name at the same school.” Cody Lee’s mother called Deputy Sheriff Hawkins, who then finally provided a photo of the wrongfully charged high school student to the victim. She confirmed that Cody Lee had nothing to do with the alleged sexual battery.
The aforementioned internal investigation showed that Hawkins, “failed to properly identify a suspect, failed to properly document information obtained in the investigation, made inaccurate statements in reports and failed to properly document actions taken in an investigation.”
Cody Lee Williams has hired an attorney and will possibly take the Clay County Sheriff’s office to court. News 4 Jax reports that three other deputies are going to receive “formal counselling” for their roles in this incident and that Hawkins, “faces a 10-day unpaid suspension and a transfer from investigations to patrol.”
Sheriff Rick Beseler put it bluntly, “an innocent man was arrested for an offence that he did not commit."
Cody Raymond Williams, the suspect police were actually looking for, will appear in court on the sexual assault charge next month.