A man was locked in a state mental hospital in Hawaii for 2 years. Now officials realize they got the wrong guy.

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A man was locked in a state mental hospital in Hawaii for 2 years. Now officials realize they got the wrong guy.
Joshua Spriestersbach was held at the Hawaii State Hospital for more than two years until the authorities realized they arrested the wrong man. Hawaii State Hospital/ Facebook
  • Joshua Spriestersbach was homeless in Hawaii when he was arrested by a cop who mistook him for another man.
  • Spriestersbach was institutionalized for more than two years before the mix-up was cleared up last January.
  • A legal non-profit, the Hawaii Innocence Project, filed a petition on Monday to vacate his arrest.

A homeless man was arrested and institutionalized in Hawaii for more than two years, then set free when the authorities realized they got the wrong guy.

After a bizarre identity mix-up that led to him being locked up in a state mental hospital for two years, Joshua Spriestersbach is free. Now, the Hawaii Innocence Project, a legal non-profit group, is petitioning for the courts to vacate his arrest record.

According to a report by the AP, Spriestersbach was mistaken for a man named Thomas Castleberry back in 2017. A police officer somehow confused Spriestersbach for Castleberry, the latter of which had violated his probation from a 2006 drug offense.

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Spriestersbach had never met Castleberry, but was committed at the Hawaii State Hospital for two years and eight months under the other man's name, wrote the AP. Attorneys at the Hawaii Innocence Project filed a petition on Monday, which argued that this case of mistaken identity could have been clarified - and Spriestersbach exonerated - if police had compared the two mens' likenesses and fingerprints.

"No one would believe him or take any meaningful steps to verify his identity and determine that what Mr. Spriestersbach was telling the truth - he was not Mr. Castleberry," Spriestersbach's lawyers argued. "Yet, the more Mr. Spriestersbach vocalized his innocence by asserting that he is not Mr. Castleberry, the more he was declared delusional and psychotic by the H.S.H. staff and doctors and heavily medicated."

The Hawaii State Hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

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Spriestersbach was released in January 2020 when the authorities finally figured out that he was not Castleberry. He now lives with his sister Vedanta Griffith in Vermont, per the AP.

"Part of what they used against him was his own argument: 'I'm not Thomas Castleberry. I didn't commit these crimes. ... This isn't me,'" Griffith told the AP. "So they used that as saying he was delusional, as justification for keeping him."

"He's so afraid that they're going to take him again," Griffith added.

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