Teresa Culpepper was wrongfully arrested in Atlanta for a crime she did not commit, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Culpepper was locked up in the Fulton County Jail from Aug. 21 until Oct. 12, a total of 53 days.
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Police arrested her for throwing hot water on Angelo Boyd. However, Boyd said that he did know the Culpepper and that she was not the person responsible for the attack.
Arrests made based on mistaken identity are common, according to Aimee Maxwell, executive director of the Georgia Innocence Project. However, those arrests are corrected in a few days. Culpepper’s length of time in jail was exceptionally long.
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She called police on Aug. 21 to report that her pick-up truck had been stolen by her boyfriend and officer Jaidon Codrington of the APD responded. Boyd also called police that same morning, complaining that his girlfriend threw water on him. The same officer was dispatched assist with Boyd’s call.
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Here is how the rest of the incident went down:
Again Codrington was dispatched, this time to pick up Teresa Gilbert at an Ashby Circle address, according to the OPS file. He went instead to Culpepper’s boarding house on Hawkins Street, after telling the dispatcher he had already been to the woman’s house on a stolen pickup report, records show.
Records and radio transmissions memorialized subsequent discussions between Codrington and other officers about discrepancies.
The addresses were different; the call came from Ashby Circle but Culpepper was picked up more than a mile away on Hawkins Street. Gilbert was described as 41 years old, 5-foot-9, with a gold tooth and wearing her hair in a bun. Culpepper, now 47, is 5-foot-6 and she did not have a gold tooth nor was her hair in a bun. Several people on Hawkins Street saw Culpepper at the boarding house at the same time Boyd was doused with hot water.
In the phone conversation about charges, the officers and a prosecutor in Fulton County district attorney’s “complaint room” had similar discussions, according to Culpepper’s lawsuit against APD, the Fulton County Jail, the district attorney and several individuals.
Boyd also told the police and the DA’s office several times that they had the wrong woman but no one followed up.
And Gilbert remained free.
District Attorney Paul Howard and the Atlanta Police Department declined to discuss Culpepper’s case with Journal-Constitution. The APD did discipline a “supervisor and two officers by suspending them without pay for 10, 14 and 30 days, respectively.” Culpepper’s mother could not afford to accept collect calls from jail, so no one on the outside could speak on her behalf.
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Only when she was indicted last October for felony aggravated battery and misdemeanor assault did Culpepper have someone to defend her against the charges. When Boyd saw her in court, he said Culpepper was not the woman who attacked him. It still took a week to release Culpepper because misdemeanor assault charge was not dismissed at the same time as the felony aggravated battery charge. Jail officials would not release her until all charges were dismissed.
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The arrest has hurt her in other ways, too. When she was released on Oct. 12, Culpepper was evicted from her home and many of her belongings were stolen. Eventually, Teresa Gilbert was indicted and was sentenced to five years probation after pleading guilty to aggravated assault on Boyd.
“It was very frustrating,” said Boyd, who was seriously burned when Gilbert threw boiling water on his back. “And she never spent a day in jail.”
The Atlanta Police Department is conducting an internal investigation.
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