Mistaken identity sends wrong man to Hawaii Mental Hospital, where he was stuck for two years

  • 14 Aug - 20 Aug, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Mag Files

Joshua Spriestersbach knew that he was not Thomas Castleberry – but he claims that didn't stop officials in Hawaii from arresting him for Castleberry's alleged crimes in a gut-wrenching case that saw the wrong man trapped in custody for more than two years. Now, Spriestersbach, 50, and his team are petitioning the court to vacate his arrests following a harrowing ordeal in which Spriestersbach was ignored, heavily medicated and forced to live in a psychiatric hospital by officials. Spriestersbach, who struggles with a mental health disability, was homeless and waiting for food outside of a Honolulu restaurant in 2017 when he fell asleep on the sidewalk "due to heat and exhaustion.” He was eventually awoken by a Hawaii Police Department officer – and though he didn't have any identification on him, told the officer his name, date of birth and social security number under the assumption he was being arrested for violating the city's ban on sitting and lying down on public sidewalks. Spriestersbach's legal representation claims he was taken to the Oahu Community Correctional Center to be fingerprinted and photographed – and despite the fact that officers allegedly failed to compare the data to that of the real Castleberry, he was booked anyway for crimes committed by Castleberry in 2006. Eventually – after a detective verified fingerprints and photographs and it was determined that the real Castleberry had been in prison in Alaska since 2016 – Spriestersbach was released from the hospital in January 2020 after two years and eight months, "when it was determined that he had been telling the truth the entire time," the petition says.