Mistaken identity? Woman says she was wrongly accused, arrested
RITTMAN, Ohio - Ashley Brown was eight months pregnant when she was arrested on drug charges last November for a case in which her only real crime may have been having a very common name.
Brown said she pulled into the driveway of her mother's Rittman home and was closely followed by two cars from the Rittman Police Department.
"I got out and one of them walked up to me and said, 'we have a warrant for your arrest,' and I thought that they were joking," said Brown.
"I thought that it was for an unpaid parking ticket and he said, 'no ma'am, it's for dangerous drugs,' and I lost it," said Brown.
Her sister, Morgan, was in the house and had already spoken with officers who came to the door looking for Ashley.
"I was scared and I was crying because I was like, what are they going to do to her?" said Morgan, who explained the officers didn't tell her anything about the reason they were looking for her sister.
Ashley's close friend and neighbor, Alyssa Al-Jammal, also saw what was happening.
"I was just in shock," said Al-Jammal.
"It was probably one of the biggest shocks of my life because she has never been in trouble before and she is pregnant now. Her life is about to change forever," said Al-Jammal.
Investigators accused Brown of driving a a co-defendant to a location to sell drugs in April.
Confidential informants, who apparently bought the drugs from the co-defendant, told police that the girl's name was Ashley Brown.
The case was ultimately taken to a Medina County Grand Jury which issued an indictment against Brown, charging her with two different felonies.
Brown's arrest was on the Friday before Veteran's Day in November, after the indictment had been returned.
She said she was transferred to the Medina County Jail where she cried constantly, insisting they had the wrong person, but worried because it seemed people were not willing to believe her.
"They had my name, my date of birth, my social security right; but I told them the whole time, 'you have the wrong person,'" said Brown, who admits she was worried about her baby and afraid she was going to deliver her daughter behind bars.
Because Monday was a holiday, she was not in court until the following Tuesday when she first met her attorney, Bob Campbell, after spending four days behind bars.
Campbell said he has had plenty of clients who say they are innocent but Brown was adamant from the start that her arrest was a case of mistaken identity.
Even so, he admits he did not completely believe her in the beginning.
"I wanted to make sure that I completely vetted her claim of innocence before I presented it to anybody else, because about the worst that you could do is to present a claim of innocence when you are not. That has a tendency to backfire," said Campbell.
"I was really hard on Ashley the first few times that we met," admitted Campbell, adding, "unfortunately I reduced her to tears a couple of times but she never waivered once."
As the case progressed, Campbell said he talked with the attorney representing the co-defendant in the case who actually sold the drugs.
"When he met with his client, Ashley's picture was part of the police report and one of the first things his client asked him was, 'who's that?'" said Campbell.
Campbell said when the owner of the car that was used in the drug sale was found he also had no idea who Ashley Brown was.
"Eventually they showed the informant who had previously provided the name, Ashley Brown, a photo lineup and he couldn't identify my client out of that photo lineup," said Campbell.
There was also an alibi: a Facebook post from the cousin of Brown's ex-boyfriend that confirmed Ashley was out hiking on the day of the drug transaction.
But Campbell said he feared taking the case to trial because he knows that jurors tend to want to believe police officers over the testimony of a defendant who claims they arrested the wrong person.
Campbell believes the actual girl who was involved in the drug deal only identified herself by her first name, saying, "hi, my name is Ashley."
Campbell also believes it was the informant who came up with the name Ashley Brown and then investigators went through driver's license photographs of people with the same name who live in the area and concluded that they had the right person based on her description.
"And that was enough to get her indicted," said Campbell.
"I think people believe that in order to get charged with a felony offense you have to at least be hanging around with the wrong people or doing something that you probably knew you shouldn't do and this certainly proves this is not the case. She was just minding her own business," said Campbell.
For eight grueling months following her arrest, Brown said she was required to make daily status phone calls and subject herself to random drug tests twice a week at her own expense.
Ultimately, prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against her.
Brown said she felt embarassed to have to go through what she did, especially when she was pregnant and she feels she is entitled to an apology.
"I hope this never happens to anybody, and I hope they do their research better before they go to try to convict somebody of something they didn't do," said Brown.
FOX 8 News did attempt to speak with the director of the Medina County Drug Task Force about the investigation but was unable to reach him on Monday; our call was not returned.
Campbell calls the case 'scary,' noting anyone could have found themselves in Brown's situation.
"Even though Ashley went through a terrible ordeal for eight months, it does renew my faith in the system in that we got it right in the end and that's a good thing," concluded Campbell.