Vehicle Theft, Drugs
Length of Sentence:
Causes of Wrongful Conviction:
On May 11, 2017, Joshua Spriestersbach thought he was being arrested for falling asleep on the sidewalk while he waited in line for food outside a homeless shelter. Joshua, who was houseless at the time, thought he was being arrested for violating Honolulu’s sit/lie ban, which criminalizes the houseless for sitting or sleeping in certain areas of the city. Unfortunately for Joshua, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Unbeknownst to Joshua at the time, he was not being arrested for being houseless, he was being arrested for someone else’s felony probation violation.
Thomas Ralph Castleberry had an outstanding warrant stemming from his 2006 arrest and conviction for vehicle theft and drug charges. Joshua did not know and had never met Castleberry but was arrested by the Honolulu Police Department for Castleberry’s crimes. When HPD arrested Joshua, he gave them his full name, date of birth, and social security card. HPD never verified this information, nor did they compare the photographs and fingerprints of Castleberry to Joshua. Instead, they booked Joshua in Oahu Community Correctional Center where he remained for 4 months until his first court appearance.
Joshua suffers from a mental health disability and when he went to court, instead of his public defender listening to him when he told them was not Castleberry and Joshua giving the public defender his identifying information, the public defender requested that the Judge appoint three mental health examiners to determine if Joshua was fit to proceed in court – for Castleberry’s crimes. From there, Joshua was sent to the Hawai‘i State Mental Hospital, where he remained for over two and a half years – as Castleberry and for Castleberry’s crimes.
Once Joshua was at HSH, he told hospital staff, his doctors, and the three mental health evaluators that he was not Castleberry. The more Joshua protested that he was not Castleberry and that he had never committed the crimes he was in HSH for, the more he was given strong anti-psychotic medication, which caused him to become catatonic. When Joshua protested the heavy doses of medication, the Judge ordered him to be medicated over his objections.
For two years and eight months, Joshua told everyone he came into contact with – HPD, OCCC staff, HSH staff and doctors, mental health evaluators, and his numerous public defenders that he was not Castleberry – but no one would listen. That was until one of his doctors took the time to verify his medical records and found that Joshua was not on Oahu at the time that Castleberry committed his crimes, and therefore, could not be Castleberry. The doctor then contacted Joshua’s public defenders – who ignored her calls. The doctor then contacted the Attorney General who sent a HPD officer to verify through photographs and fingerprints, what Joshua had been saying all along – he was not Castleberry.
HSH released Joshua on January 17, 2020 to a homeless shelter with $0.50 to his name and his identification. Five days later the Judge convened a secret meeting with the Prosecutor, attorney with the AG, and the Public Defender. Instead of correcting the court record and clearing Joshua’s name, they kept the court minutes and the record of the meeting a secret. They did not correct the record so that it is clear that Joshua and Castleberry are not the same person – instead, they kept the records the same so that Joshua’s name is still connected with Castleberry and reissued the warrant for Castleberry’s arrest.
HIP investigated this case and found through a quick public records search that Castleberry was in other states and was even incarcerated at the time Joshua was serving Castleberry’s time in the HSH. Yet, no one took the time to listen to Joshua and due basic research to determine what he was telling was true – he was not Castleberry. Joshua sought HIP’s help to prove his innocence and clear his name so that he can never again be arrested for Castleberry’s crimes.