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$67,500 Settlement in Case of Mistaken Identity in Minnesota

by Lonnie Burton

On July 19, 2016, the city of Hopkins, Minnesota, finalized a settlement agreement in which it agreed to pay a man who was falsely arrested and charged with a sex offense a total of $67,500. The man spent three days in jail before he bailed out and was later cleared when his claim of mistaken identity was verified.

The case began in November of 2013 when police in Hopkins were notified of a possible child sexual abuse case. The name of the suspect given to police was Bartolo Zavala, the minor victim's great uncle. The allegations were said to occur two and one-half years prior to the report.

Police detective Mark Kyllo eventually found a Facebook page belonging to a Bartolo Zavala with information provided by the victim's mothee, who said she hadn't seen Zavala in over two years but believed he still lived in Minnesota. The mother identified Zavala's Facebook photo as the victim's great uncle who molested her. The full name of the great uncle was Bartolo Zavala Reyes, who was born in 1966.

However, using a Bureau of Criminal Affairs website, Kyllo found a Bartolo Torres Zavala, born in 1981, whom he assumed was his suspect. The confusion came about because traditional Latin naming practices use the middle name as the surname. Bartolo Torres Zavala thus went by Bartolo Torres, while the true suspect, Bartolo Zavala Reyes, was known as Bartolo Zavala.

Even though the Facebook photo of Zavala matched a man Kyollo went to interview in St. Paul after being advised of Zavala's arrest on unrelated charges, Kyollo filed a false affidavit seeking an arrest warrant for Torres, and using the 1981 DOB. On February 7, 2015, Torres was stopped for a traffic violation in Richfield, Minnesota. Police there ran Torres' information and found a felony warrant charging him with child sexual abuse. The pulled their guns on Torres and arrested him in from of Torres' wife and two young children.

Torres was booked into the Hennepin County jail on the Hopkins charges, and in court two days later he denied having ever lived in Hopkins or even knowing the victim or her mother. Bail was set at $20,000, which Torres paid and was released the same day. At Torres' next court date March 3, 2015, all charges were dismissed.

Torres filed suit in February 2016 in Hennepin County District Court. The complaint sought damages "exceeding $50,000" along with punitive damages if the defendants removed the case to federal court. The lawsuit charged the city of Hopkins and Kyollo with false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Torres asserted the Kyollo filed for an arrest warrant with information he knew not to be true,

The case settled less than six months after it was filed. Torres was set to receive $67,500, less attorney's fees and costs which the settlement agreement did not address, The case was in fact removed to federal court. Torres was represented by attorneys Tim M. Phillips and Joshua R. Williams of Minneapolis, as well as Bruce D. Nestor of De Leon & Nestor, LLC, also out of Minneapolis.

See: Torres Zavala v. City of Hopkins and Kyollo, No. 16-CV-00439 Mn.

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Related legal case

Torres Zavala v. City of Hopkins and Kyollo



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