Johnny Edgar kept in jail past his scheduled release date, Jodi White wrongfully arrested, according to officials and documents
After roughly 80 days in jail, Johnny Edgar was looking forward to heading home.
It was Feb. 22, a Friday morning, and the Knox County General Session Court judge had dismissed his case.
Edgar, though, didn't get out for another three days.
That's because, officials said, the county's criminal court clerk's office never sent his release papers to the sheriff's department. Without those, he wasn't going anywhere.
"I had to sit there all weekend until Monday morning until I could find out what was going on," said Edgar, 33, who was initially picked up on a gun charge. "I had my stuff packed in my cell. I was ready to go, but then had to sit there."
The following Monday, according to an internal Knox County Sheriff's Office memo, Edgar's attorney reached out to authorities, asking why his client wasn't released. The paperwork was eventually pushed through, and he got out.
"I don't want to point fingers but he was supposed to be out," Edgar's attorney, Bill Petty, told WBIR. "We gave the information to the (Criminal) Court Clerk's Office. "They've got a lot to do, I'm sure, but this should have taken priority. It's unfortunate but we're glad he's out. But in a perfect world he would have been out on a Friday."
Edgar isn't the only defendant to fall victim in the past year or so to mistakes that officials say originate in the Knox County Criminal Court Clerk's Office, which includes Fourth Circuit Court, General Sessions and Criminal Court.
A WBIR Channel10 investigation discovered more than 20 instances of errors that led to residents wrongly taken into custody or kept in jail for days, sometimes weeks, past their scheduled release dates.
The records, obtained through the state's open records act, and interviews with top ranking county leaders suggest that the mistakes date back to at least July 2012 and occurred as recently as early September.
Officials say criminal court clerk's office workers often fail to update the county's Justice Information Management System, or JIMS, which attorneys, the sheriff's office, and the district attorney's office rely on for the latest information and to make decisions on whether a defendant is up-to-date on payments, court appearances, or community service.
Officials also say that the clerks sometimes fail to bring warrants to the judges to dismiss once the defendant completes his or her probationary requirements.
That means judges often issue invalid warrants and authorities act on them. It also means that some defendants have spent more time in jail than they should.
Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCroskey said "mistakes happen," but said no one was wrongly arrested due to an error by one of her employees.
Top ranking officials, though, said otherwise.
Here's a snapshot of what officials and records say happened to another defendant:
Jodi White was a year removed from probation when Loudon County authorities in early January pulled her over for speeding.
STORY AND SLIDESHOW: Errors leading to wrongful arrests, according to interviews and documents
"They took us out of the car, searched the car and then came back and told me I had a violation of probation warrant," said White, 33, who was with her boyfriend at the time. "I hadn't been on probation in two years, so I knew it wasn't true. They still arrested me and Knox County came and got me."
Records show that White was picked up on Jan. 8, a little more than a year after she completed her probation requirements. She was released on a $500 cash bond, which officials returned to her the next day when they released her.
However, her car was towed when she was taken into custody. That cost her more than $100, which she never got back, she said.
"I had paid all my probation fines. I had done all the classes, they wanted me to do," said White, who was initially on probation for driving under the influence. "My probation was done and over with. There should have been no violation to start with."
White said recalling the event still upsets her.
"This shouldn't happen to people," she added.
Officials say they're looking into the matter, but they're not sure when it will be fixed.
Knox County Sheriff's Office attorney Carlton "Butch" Bryant said "there's times when they bring people out to the detention facility and the staff there realizes that they're not the right person or that they shouldn't have been picked up."
He added: "I would think we've got a problem, but I think that's for other people to judge. When a fellow is released from the courthouse on Friday and has to spend the weekend in jail, and the only reason he gets out on Monday is because his lawyer calls me and I check into it and we have to request the paperwork to let him out, that's just not right."
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