Man Arrested For Crime He Didn't Commit is Held in Prison for More Than a Year Before Charges Are Finally Dropped

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We depend on the police and public officials to keep us safe and protect our rights. But what happens when a man is arrested for a crime he didn't commit and is incarcerated for over a year? Roberto Hernandez's bail was set at $100,000 and because he could not secure bail, he remained in jail until his court date one year later.

Roberto Hernandez was arrested by Hartford police officers and accused of robbing a local McDonald's. Despite a lack of evidence linking Mr. Hernandez to the crime, his bail was set at $100,000. Mr. Hernandez, who is indigent, and Hispanic, was unable to secure the $100,000 bail, and as a result was forced to sit in prison, awaiting trial for more than a year, on a crime he never committed. Finally, on the eve of trial, all charges against Mr. Hernandez were dropped and he was released.

In an effort to preserve our constitutional rights and protect us from future incidents of Constitutional abuse, Attorney Paul Spinella has taken on Mr. Hernandez's case to vindicate his Constitutional rights and to fix a bail system that continually denies minorities and indigent members of society reasonable bail.

The lawsuit, Roberto Hernandez v. The State of Connecticut, et al, filed in the United States District Court in Hartford on January 25, 2007, docket number 3:03-cv-00121(MRK), asserts that Hartford police officers deprived Mr. Hernandez of his Constitutional and state law rights by arresting him for a crime they knew, or should have known, he did not commit. The lawsuit also seeks to reform Connecticut's broken bail system that deprives indigent and minority members of the community, such as Mr. Hernandez, of their constitutional rights to reasonable bail.

Roberto Hernandez was arrested on February 7, 2005 and charged with robbing a local McDonald's. The only witness the police had against Mr. Hernandez was his ex-girlfriend. Originally, Mr. Hernandez's ex-girlfriend told the police she did not know who robbed the McDonald's. Three days later, after Mr. Hernandez ended their relationship, the ex-girlfriend went back to the police, this time telling them that Mr. Hernandez was the McDonald's robber. Based on the ex-girlfriend's tip, the police arrested Mr. Hernandez, despite evidence that they had the wrong person. The McDonald's cashier who was held up identified another suspect as the robber. Additionally, a surveillance video of the robbery did not show Mr. Hernandez as the robber.

The lawsuit claims that the policies and customs of the City of Hartford and the Hartford Police Department led to the unlawful arrest of Mr. Hernandez.

After being arrested, Mr. Hernandez's bail was set at $100,000. He moved twice, to no avail, to have the bail reduced to a reasonable amount. Because Mr. Hernandez lacked the financial means to secure his pre-trial release, he was effectively punished for a crime before ever being convicted. The lawsuit alleges that this is a problem prevalent throughout the Connecticut bail system. Minority and indigent members of society consistently have their bail set at levels far beyond their means.

In order to defend and uphold the constitutional rights of all citizens, and deter such future abuses, Mr. Hernandez has taken the police officers, the City of Hartford, and those state official responsible for Connecticut's unfair bail system to court. Though taking our police force and state officials to court helps defend victims' rights, it is public outcry from ordinary citizens that constitutional abuses will not be tolerated that will gain the attention of the state and city authorities necessary to bring about permit and lasting change.

Over the past two decades, Spinella & Associates has successfully prosecuted hundreds of police brutality claims against police departments and municipalities throughout the State of Connecticut and the New England region. The Spinella team is a group of determined trial lawyers who represent ordinary citizens against abuse of power by institutions. Spinella & Associates is located in Hartford, Connecticut and can be reached at 860-728-4900 or online at


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A. Paul Spinella
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