Wrong person arrested in fake city worker case

March 17, 2010 4:45:40 PM PDT
A teenager was pulled out of class and thrown in jail. He spent four days behind bars for a crime he did not commit. It's a case of mistaken identity that has the teen and his parents demanding answers. The high school senior who was sitting in class was surprised with a visit from police, and then a trip to jail. His face was plastered all over the news as the man accused of posing as a fake city worker to attack women. But now police say they were wrong. It's not the right guy.

January 21 is a day Bobby Haskett will never forget. That's when the 17-year-old went from being a 12th grade basketball star, to a defendant charged with two aggravated robberies.

"I was coming back from a field trip," he said "They came to my school and the school police officer told me he had to hold me."

Moments later, HPD officers showed up and arrested him.

"They told me they had fingerprints and physical evidence that it was me, but the whole time I knew it wasn't me, so how could you have something on me if I wasn't there?" asked Haskett.

Next stop was the Harris County Jail, where he sat for 4 days.

"I didn't know what to do," he said. "I was just thinking, kept praying to God, hopefully I get out of here soon."

At the time, prosecutors said Haskett had posed as a public works employee and robbed two women at gunpoint in their homes. The robbery victims were shown five photos in a police lineup, and prosecutors say both women believed Bobby Haskett was their attacker.

"Mr. Haskett was identified by two complainants in two cases," said Harris County Assistant District Attorney Jon Stephenson. "He was placed in a photo spread in a Crime Stoppers tip."

Stunned by the charges, his parents scraped together cash for a $6,500 bond and hired a lawyer.

"I told him, I kept telling him, 'Son, let's pray. God will work this out,'" said Zandra Haskett.

Those prayers were answered when the charges were suddenly dropped. Police found fingerprints from another man -- John Agege -- on a clipboard used in one of the crimes. Agege has confessed to that robbery. The other is under investigation.

"The victims just flat out picked the wrong person out of the lineup," said Stephenson.

The Hasketts still can't believe what happened to their son.

"I think that the work that was done is pretty sloppy," said Bobby Haskett, Sr.

"Don't be so quick to point the finger and say guilty until you're sure they're guilty," added Zandra Haskett, Bobby Haskett's grandmother.

Agege is 5'11" and weighs 190 pounds. Haskett is four inches shorter, and 40 pounds lighter. And a major difference -- Agege has a tattoo on his forehead.

The Houston Police Department has issued a statement, which reads in part: "We continue to refine our policies and practices in an effort to minimize the occurrence of eyewitness misidentification."

Defense attorney Stan Broussard says there are several factors that would have exonerated his client.

"The school records were ignored for some unknown reason," he said.

HISD school records show that on the morning of September 3, when the first robbery took place, Bobby Haskett was in Spanish class. During the second on December 23, his parents say he was home asleep.

"Certainly someone should be reprimanded in some form or fashion," said Broussard.

Had the fingerprints not surfaced, and if a jury convicted Bobby Haskett, he could have faced a sentence of up to life in prison.

"I've been through a lot," said Haskett. "But I just keep God first and hopefully I don't have to go through this again."

Haskett's parents have not decided whether or not they'll take legal action. But they do want the city to repay the bond they paid. The tip that Haskett was the one behind the attacks came in through a Crime Stoppers tip. Crime Stoppers says they just pass those tips off to police, and they don't want this case to keep people from calling in tips.


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