A case of mistaken identity landed a Black Pennsylvania woman in jail for 15 days and saddled her with felony drug case that lasted nearly a year before the charges were dropped.
Now, she’s suing police over her wrongful arrest.
Jada Noone, 22, filed a civil rights lawsuit in April claiming she was falsely arrested on drug-trafficking charges stemming from a 2016 heroin bust in the eastern Pennsylvania city of Wilkes-Barre, The Citizen’s Voice reported. Noone was booked into the Luzerne County Jail in May 2017 for her alleged involvement in the drug deal, which was orchestrated and filmed by Pennsylvania State Police.
The problem is, Noone looks nothing like the suspect caught on camera. Noone is Black, and the alleged seller is white.
“She looks absolutely nothing like me at all,” Noone told the outlet last month. “They still knew this and they still tried to get me to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. “I was scared that I was going to go to jail for this, and I had absolutely nothing to do with it.”
The young woman was charged with two counts of drug trafficking, a count of conspiring to commit drug trafficking and a count of drug possession. An affidavit by arresting officer and Pennsylvania State Trooper Scott Hawley accused Noone of selling him drugs.
In it, Hawley wrote that police had set up a heroin buy with Noone’s then-boyfriend Akee Miller on May 23, 2016, according to The Appeal. An undercover trooper went to purchase the drugs, however, Miller sent a woman to conduct the sale. Hawley falsely identified Noone as the woman.
“The worst part about all of this is that Trooper Hawley had the video for a full year before Jada was even arrested,” said her lawyer Theron Solomon, who filed the lawsuit against Hawley on Noone’s behalf.
Authorities arrested Noone on May 30, 2017, and her bail was set at $75,000. It wasn’t until June 11, 2018, that a judge dropped the charges against her.
Besides the fact that police arrested the wrong person of the wrong race, Noone’s complaint argues that the woman seen in the video has crooked teeth, while Noone has straight teeth. The woman in question also has a large chest tattoo, which Noone doesn’t have either.
The suit goes on to note that, in his affidavit, Hawley described the suspect as “a white female with bright pink/red dyed hair.” Again, Noone is African-American and doesn’t have red hair.
Noone and her lawyer believe police assumed she was the suspect because they were actively investigating her child’s father, according to The Citizen’s Voice. Her then-lover once texted an undercover officer that he would have “my girl come meet you.”
Noone argued that all authorities had to do was “watch the video” to see that it wasn’t her.
“It’s beyond absurd, it’s scary to think that any one of us is vulnerable to something like this because they just felt like she was the girl,” Solomon also told The Appeal.
Noone’s complaint was met with resistance from state Deputy Attorney General Daniel Gallagher, who argued that it was impossible to discern whether the tattoo seen in the video was permanent, or if Noone had it removed. He also said that Hawley couldn’t speak to the condition of the teeth of the woman in question and that there was no evidence Noone didn’t have dental work done after the drug deal, which would explain the difference in teeth.
He even asked for proof of Noone’s race, The Appeal reported.
The young woman’s lawsuit accuses Hawley of malicious prosecution, unreasonable seizure and false arrest in the case. She’s seeking an unspecified amount in damages.
Noone’s lawyer said he was able to identify the woman in question, but she hasn’t yet been charged.