MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Central Florida man’s nightmare behind bars is over after South Florida prosecutors admitted they had the wrong guy.
More than a week after an Uber driver was arrested on an open warrant he adamantly insisted was for someone else, prosecutors in South Florida have admitted that the man was wrongfully arrested in a case of mistaken identity.
Jose Batista was arrested May 18 at International Drive and Austrian Court after deputies from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office pulled him over for a faulty headlight as Batista was driving for Uber, according to an incident report.
During the traffic stop, deputies said Batista had an open Miami-Dade County warrant on an aggravated battery.
The Uber driver told an Orange County judge that authorities had him mixed up with a man in South Florida named Marco Batista, who shares a similar name and birthday.
“It was a nightmare,” Batista said. “Somebody dropped the ball, but I just thank God that I’m out of here.”
In an interview with News 6, Batista said he’d been arrested twice because he’d been mistaken for the other man — who uses Jose Batista and Josue Batista as aliases.
When News 6 began to investigate the mistaken identity claim, Miami-Dade prosecutors said they would check their paperwork. On Tuesday, officials from the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office said that Batista was wrongfully arrested.
“We are still seeking to piece together all of the information relating to this matter but it appears to us that the Jose Batista who was being held in jail is not the same individual for whom the judicial arrest order was issued almost 23 years ago,” Miami-Dade prosecutors said.
A prosecutor has since ordered that the judicial arrest order be quashed.
“It is every prosecutor’s responsibility to protect the innocent as much as it is their responsibility to prosecute those who commit crimes. Quashing this old judicial arrest order is the right thing to do,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
Batista said he’s concerned how this arrest will affect him in the future.
“Maybe I can be driving again and I can get pulled over, I don’t know. I’m scared to drive,” Batista said.
He said he knew the entire time his arrest was a big mistake. Now, he’s out of job and trying to bounce back. He said he was fired from driving Uber after his arrest.
“Yes I lost my car. I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent for my house and it’s hard right now,” said Batista.
Batista was released from the Orange County Jail on Friday.
“Somebody dropped the ball, but I just thank God that I’m out of here,” Batista said on Tuesday.
Now, Batista is back home with his wife who stood by his side and fought for his release and their 1-year-old son.
“I would have still been sitting up in jail, but if it wasn’t for News 6, I wouldn’t be out here,” Batista said.
While Batista said he’s happy to no longer be behind bars, he’s still recovering from the aftermath of the seven-day incarceration. Since he’s no longer working for Uber, he’s struggling to figure out how he will pay rent.
His wife, Elizabeth Rios, told News 6 she’s just happy to have her husband home.
“I was desperate, I didn’t know what to do,” Rios said. “Since day one, Jerry, I told you he wasn’t the person.”