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LA woman jailed for nearly 2 weeks in a case of mistaken identity. Now she's suing

A side-by-side comparison of the Bethany Farber, left, who had an arrest warrant issued in Texas, and Bethany K. Farber, the 30-year-old California woman who says she was mistakenly jailed for 13 days last year.
Photo courtesy of Bethany K. Farber's attorney, Rodney Diggs
Ivie McNeill, Wyatt Purcell & Diggs
A side-by-side comparison of the Bethany Farber, left, who had an arrest warrant issued in Texas, and Bethany K. Farber, the 30-year-old California woman who says she was mistakenly jailed for 13 days last year.

Bethany Farber was on her way to Mexico for a family vacation when she heard her name called from a ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport.

"I was about to board the flight just waiting at the gate," she told NPR.

"Then TSA ended up calling me to the desk and then escorting me to the hall, where they immediately told me to put my things down and go against the wall and put my hands up."

Before she could say much of anything, "they arrested me and told me it was for a statewide fugitive warrant in Texas," she said, between deep breaths.

Farber, a 30-year-old aesthetician from Agoura Hills, Calif., couldn't believe what was happening. "I've never been to Texas!" she told NPR.

"All I could think was that it wasn't me. I just kept insisting that they check ... that they double-check because they had the wrong person, and I made that very clear. I told them over and over again, and they just completely blew me off."

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Within minutes, she was cuffed to a chair and told to wait for Los Angeles Police Department officials to take her away. They did.

Farber was jailed from April 16 to April 28, "until they finally let me go because they had the wrong Bethany Farber."

Now, Farber and her attorneys have filed a civil suit against the LAPD for wrongful arrest and detainment — a violation of her Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights — after authorities failed to properly confirm her identity and denied her the ability to be released on bail.

"They didn't try to verify her identity at all," Farber's lawyer, Rodney Diggs, told NPR.

Diggs added: "The LAPD failed to do the bare minimum of their job, which they could have done by checking her phone, checking her birth date, checking her Social Security number, checking her fingerprints through live scan or just checking photos of the other Bethany. But they didn't do any of that."

The LAPD told NPR the department is unable to comment on pending litigation.

According to Diggs, his office was able to easily obtain a photo of the wanted woman in Texas. A side-by-side comparison shows they look nothing alike. The 34-year-old woman who was wanted for property damage has brown hair, brown eyes and a round face, whereas Diggs' client has blond hair, blue eyes and a sharp chin.

Court documents filed on Tuesday state that city officials and law enforcement "acted with deliberate indifference, and conscious and reckless disregard to the safety, security and constitutional and statutory rights of" Farber.

"This is an experience that no one should go through," she said.

Farber claims that her arrest, interrogation and nearly two-week detention have led to her suffering from anxiety and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

But even worse, she believes it led to the death of her maternal grandmother. Farber and her family claim the 90-year-old matriarch suffered a stress-induced stroke after learning of her only granddaughter's arrest.

Although she was able to see her grandmother before she died, Farber said, "I missed a lot of her last days in the hospital."

It's an especially bitter pill to swallow, considering that Farber could have been released days earlier, Diggs said.

According to the filing, Los Angeles officials "were contacted by the courts in Texas and informed that [Farber] did not have arrest warrants against her," but she continued to be held for an additional three days.

"They have not explained why they did that," Diggs said. "They haven't said anything at all."

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Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.