In early 2005, 21-year old Clinton Treadway of Dundee, Florida, realized that his driver’s license had been stolen and reported the theft to the police. Then, between March 3rd and March 8th 2005, someone used his ID to cash stolen checks at three different banks. Police questioned Treadway about the checks. He told them that he had been a victim of identity theft and that he had filed a report, but the police could find no record of his report.
Police retrieved bank surveillance photos showing a man with blond hair, a heavy face, and earrings signing the stolen checks. They showed these photos to some of Treadway’s co-workers and all of them said that the person in the photos was not Treadway, who has dark hair, a slender face, and doesn’t wear earrings.
Nevertheless, on June 11, 2005 Treadway was arrested and charged with four counts of forgery and four counts of grand theft. Bond was set at $15,000, but Treadway couldn’t afford to pay, so he remained in custody.
Treadway went on trial in January 2006. Four bank tellers testified that they had compared the driver’s license used in the transactions and they believed the person cashing the checks was the person depicted on the license. However, all four transactions took place at the drive-through window and the tellers relied only upon a video camera to compare the customer to the license. A handwriting expert testified for the defense that the signatures on the cashed checks didn’t match Treadway’s handwriting.
On January 12, 2006 of a jury found Treadway guilty of all charges. In February he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Treadway appealed, but his conviction was upheld by the 2nd District Court of Appeal of Florida in 2007.
Treadway had served more than six years in prison when, in 2012, a family member received a letter addressed to “Clinton Tuadway,” containing a victim notification form about an identity theft ring being investigated by the Office of the Statewide Prosecutor. The notification stated that one of the members of the theft ring, who had been arrested, was scheduled to be released soon.
Treadway’s family hired attorney James "Rusty" Franklin, who discovered that Treadway’s name had been misspelled by the police as “Tuadway” when he reported that the theft of his license, that his identification had likely been stolen by a female co-worker, and that one of the suspected members of the theft ring resembled the man in the bank surveillance photos.
Based on this new evidence of Treadway’s innocence, his lawyer filed a motion for post-conviction relief. On July 3, 2012, a judge at the Tenth Circuit Court in Polk County vacated Treadway’s conviction and ruled that he was entitled to a new trial. The same day, prosecutors dismissed all charges against Treadway.
Treadway was released after serving more than seven years in prison. His lawyers immediately began seeking $350,000 in compensation as well as waivers of tuition and fees at a college or career center.
- Alexandra Gross