A civil rights lawsuit filed in Hawaii on November 21, 2021 by 50-year-old Joshua Spriestersbach alleges that he was wrongfully committed to a Hawaii mental hospital for two years and eight months in a case of misidentification.
Spriestersbach was kept for more than two years at Hawaii State Hospital during which he received psychiatric drug treatment. It was not until January 2020 that a hospital physician determined that Spriestersbach was telling the truth about who he was.
How Did It Happen?
Spriestersbach had given his last name as Castleberry (which was his grandfather’s last name) to the police in 2011 at the time he was found sleeping near a stairwell. Spriestersbach, who was homeless, gave his correct name to police during another encounter in 2015. Then, in 2017, Spriestersbach was arrested by poloce when he was found sleeping on a sidewalk. The police at that time assumed that his name was Castleberry. Despite taking his fingerprints and mugshot during the 2017 arrest, no one compared them with identification information they had which would have shown that the arrested man was not Castleberry. He was then committed to the state mental hospital.
According to Spriestersbach’s sisiter, “Every time they called him Thomas Castleberry, he’d say, ‘My name is Joshua Spriestersbach.’ They would use that against him, saying he’s delusional, Anytime he refused to comply with a requirement that Thomas Castleberry had, he was injected with an anti-psychotic drug.”
In 2018, hospital employees reportedly escorted Spriestersbach out of the hospital to obtain copies of his Social Security card and state ID, which showed his true identity.
When a doctor finally realized the misidentification after two years and eight months of Spriestersbach’s involuntary inpatient psychiatric treatment, Spriestersbach was released from the psychiatric hospital with multiple forms of identification and dropped off at a shelter with 5o cents. He currently lives with his sister in Vermont, where he does not leave the residence due to his fear that he will be stopped by law enforcement and jailed again.
Spriestersbach’s lawsuit alleges medical malpractice, false imprisonment, and infliction of emotional distress. Police officers, public defenders, and doctors involved in his arrest and involuntary commitment to Hawaii State Hospital are named as defendants. The lawsuit alleges that “Joshua suffered special and general economic and non-economic damages to be proven at trial, including forced medical treatment and medication, loss of freedom, great mental anguish, severe emotional distress, anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation, worry, and anger.”
The interim Chief of the Honolulu Police Department said with regard to the lawsuit that his department “is currently reviewing department policies and procedures to determine if changes are needed. We are also continuing to work with city attorneys to fully investigate and address the allegations in the lawsuit.”
The real Thomas Castleberry is presently in custody with the Alaska Department of Corrections. He was 49-years-old in 2017 when he had an outstanding violation of probation warrant related to a prior arrest for drug crimes in 2006. His fingerprints and mugshot were taken at the time of his arrest. Thomas Castleberry had a criminal history of multiple felony arrests in Arizona and Alaska. He left Hawaii in 2009.
If you or a family member may have been injured as a result of psychiatric malpractice while a patient in a mental hospital or in another inpatient or outpatient psychiatric facility in Hawaii or in another U.S. state, it is important that a prompt and thorough investigation be undertaken by a medical malpractice attorney or other appropriate professional to determine what happened and why.
Visit our website to be connected with Hawaii medical malpractice lawyers, or medical malpractice lawyers in your state, who may assist you with your possible mental health malpractice claim, or call us toll free in the United States at 800-295-3959.
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