September 23, 2014

Medina
Sunny
56°F

Mother-to-be arrested by mistake, fights until charges are dismissed

Ashley Brown poses with her 7-month-old daughter, Realee-Ann, at Brown's mother's home in Rittman. (ANDREW DAVIS / GAZETTE)

Ashley Brown poses with her 7-month-old daughter, Raelee-Ann, at Brown’s mother’s home in Rittman. (ANDREW DAVIS / GAZETTE)

Expectant mother Ashley Brown had turned into the driveway of her mother’s home in Rittman last fall when two police cruisers pulled up behind, blocking her in.

As her distraught 13-year-old sister looked on, officers informed Brown she was under arrest on a felony warrant for trafficking dangerous drugs.

But there was a problem: Police had the wrong woman.

Never questioned before her arrest, 23-year-old Brown — who at the time was eight months pregnant — spent the weekend in the Medina County Jail before making bail.

“I thought I was going to prison when I was innocent and I wouldn’t be able to see my daughter,” she said. “I mean, there are no words to describe that.”

Eight months of court battles later, she and her attorney finally got police and prosecutors to concede the mistake and drop the charges.

Bob Campbell, her court-appointed attorney, said the Medina County Drug Task Force botched the investigation and put a new mother through a terrifying experience.

“People think in my business that to get charged, you’ve got to at least be hanging out with the wrong people or you’re in the wrong kinds of places,” Campbell said.

Not only had Brown never seen the inside of jail cell before, she’d never had more than traffic citations.

“Here’s a woman who’s basically sitting at home waiting for her baby to be born, and she gets a knock at the door that results in felony charges.”

The Oct. 28 indictment charged her with complicity to traffic marijuana and oxycodone pain pills, felonies of the third and fourth degree. If she’d been convicted, she would have faced up to 4½ years in prison.

Terry Lambert

Terry Lambert

Brown was accused of being the girlfriend of a convicted drug dealer, Terry Lambert, of Norton. Medina County Drug Task Force agents reported a blonde who identified herself as “Ashley” drove Lambert to a drug deal in Wadsworth on April 15, 2013.

Lambert was put on three years’ probation earlier this month after pleading guilty to drug trafficking.

Brown said she’s never met Lambert. The day police say she was driving Lambert, Brown was hiking with friends. Her friends and a Facebook post from that day provided what should have been a convincing alibi.

Brown said she doesn’t understand why her name was enough to warrant an arrest.

“There are a lot of Ashleys who are blond and there are a lot of Ashley Browns in the world and in Wayne County or Medina County,” she said. “So they obviously didn’t do their research very well.”

There are at least 90 Ashley Browns in Medina County and its surrounding five counties, according to Switchboard.com, an online phone book.

Gary Hubbard, director of the Medina County Drug Task Force, declined to explain how the mistake happened, saying his agents still are searching for the Ashley involved in the drug sting.

“We had a name and we were confident enough to have indicted her,” Hubbard said. “Then more information came out to say that’s not who it was.”

Hubbard said not interrogating suspects before they are arrested is a common practice in drug investigations.

“Lambert wasn’t interviewed prior to being arrested either,” he said. “There are various reasons not to interview suspects, but at the time we were very confident we had the right person.”

Hubbard said this case of mistaken identity was the first since he took over the task force five years ago. He said grand juries have issued more than 1,000 indictments as a result of his agents’ investigations.

“We don’t want the public to think we’re out there just charging anybody,” Hubbard said. “It’s very rare, and we work very hard to make sure this doesn’t happen at all.

“The last thing we want to do is charge the wrong person.”

Hubbard said he’s made some internal changes to prevent similar mistakes, but declined to explain the specifics.

Though she had no attorneys’ fees because Campbell was court-appointed, Brown said she had to pay her way to a drug-testing facility as part of her bail. She spent $15 once or twice a week and the gas to get from Rittman to Medina.

In addition, she said she missed some days of work at an Orrville nursing home and wasn’t paid those days.

But Brown said the emotional distress was much more costly.

“Working third shift and having a new baby and losing sleep and money, and going to Medina at least once or twice a week to take a urine drug test, it was all very stressful,” Brown said.

Brown said a frustrating part of her ordeal was that so few people believed she was innocent — not even her attorney at first.

“He’s looking at me like I’m crazy because I know nothing about it,” Brown said. “He thought I was lying.

“I would have thought I was lying, too, if I were him.”

She said Campbell only started to believe her story when she didn’t recognize photos of Lambert.

Campbell said once he was convinced of Brown’s innocence, he reached out to county Assistant Prosecutor Scott Salisbury.

“The prosecutors did the right thing,” Campbell said. “She’s lucky Salisbury pressed the cops here, or she’d still be facing these charges.”

County Prosecutor Dean Holman said he also was glad Salisbury did the right thing.

“We in this office work to achieve justice, and Scott did that in this case,” Holman said. “We strive to achieve the correct result in this office.

“If that means a case was dismissed because someone’s not properly accused, that’s what we do.”

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter @ngfalcon.


  • pollos

    Well, it looks like taxpayers will foot the bill for Ashley’s child’s college education and more because a civil lawsuit will almost certainly happen. Who is in charge of the county’s drug task force and what does he/she have to say about this? Also, could there be more to the story than we know?

  • http://medina-gazette.com/ Nick Glunt

    About halfway through the story, you’ll see some quotes from Gary Hubbard, director of the Medina County Drug Task Force.

  • George_Staursky

    I see where he said “Gary Hubbard, director of the Medina County Drug Task Force, declined to explain how the mistake happened…” To me that is inadequate, as this women’s life was turned upside down. This can and has happened before in Medina County

  • Mark Bruner

    It’s disturbing that Mr. Hubbard, director of the Medina County Drug Task Force, should seek to excuse this failure on the part of law enforcement with the lame justification that this is the first time it’s happened since he took over the task force.

    Here are several more appropriate responses:

    1.) The Medina County Drug Task Force apologizes to Ms. Brown and all citizens of the county for shoddy investigative work. Even one such example of poor police practice is one example too many because it could happen to anyone.

    2.) Here are the ways the Medina County Drug Task Force is making sure that this does not happen again to any other citizen of the county.

    By the way, Mr. Hubbard, there are 36 people with exactly my same name in the state of Ohio. Just saying.

  • George_Staursky

    Well said, however I am the one and only with my name in the Country. One issue that is being ignored is that these type of independent groups really do not answer to anyone. I doubt highly that this is the first person they have wrongly accused.

  • Kit

    I know first hand how this county gets it wrong! A family member was arrested and charged with a drug crime that a doctor was guilty of in Medina County. So much proof existed of who the real culprit was. The doc never spent a day in jail and is still practicing. My sis went to jail though, charges dropped eventually and conviction reversed. She sued but never collected a penny from these Barney Fife courts. Good luck Ashley. I hope YOU will be successful in suing and collecting!

  • sara

    The scariest part of all this is the complete arrogance of police. A complete unwillingness to dig a little deeper before arresting her based on her name and hair color. Shameful and embarrassing. I understand wanting drugs off the street, but at what cost to the public.

  • Jimmy Igloo

    This is absurd. How about the incompetent Mr. Hubbard gets to spend a weekend in jail to atone for the actions of he and the other buffoons in his office?

  • freebird

    Excuse me, but Dean Holman saying, “We strive to achieve the correct result in this office. If that means a case was dismissed because someone’s not properly accused, that’s what we do.”, means nothing to me… it’s called doing your JOB. This girl should not have spent ONE night in jail let alone the whole weekend. I sure hope she casts a very large net and seeks to right the wrong that was done to her.

  • DS

    End the insane war on drugs. Prohibition gives rise to criminal cartels and leads to loss of individual liberty because of law enforcement. Decriminalize drugs and extend liberty. Government doesn’t have the right to regulate what you put in your own body!

  • George

    No i’m not filling out a survey to read the story. Just let me see it.

  • http://medina-gazette.com/ Nick Glunt

    Hi George. We’re giving you these online stories for free. By answering this question, you’re helping us get a little more income from Google Surveys to pay our reporters and other staff so we can continue to get the news for free on our website. The survey takes no more than a minute to fill out.

  • dufas_duck

    This is normal for the police and has been happening for ages.

    How do the police think that someone spends time in prison only to be found innocent years later?? A big part is that the police operate with the arrogance that people are guilty until they prove themselves innocent or until the police can hide the evidence that they are innocent.

    Time after time, I have heard the police parrot the claim that they were going to make internal changes to protect the innocent but the same thing happens again and again. The police really don’t care if a person is innocent, it is the ‘collar’ that counts…

    An example of absurd police thinking happened some time ago in southern California. The police were looking for a 56 year old outlaw biker that was suspected of dealing drugs. Another person was arrested and he had a slip of paper with the bikers name and a telephone number on it. The police immediately do a reverse look-up and found the address assigned to that number. A swat team was sent out on a no-knock raid of that address with the usual rough up the occupants and tear up the house that the police enjoy doing even to a wrong address raid.

    It turned out to be a newly wed couple that had just moved into the house a week before and only had the telephone number for 3 days. After the police finally got around to investigating the situation, it was found that the number assigned to the biker was 10 years old and has changed hands 6 times in those 10 years.

    A very simple investigation by contacting the phone company that would have taken a few minutes would have saved an innocent couple from being terrorized by the police, but, the police in their arrogance, can’t be bothered to check their ‘facts’ before acting… But then, why should they, they are never responsible for their actions. The police PR officer made the usual announcement that all the police actions were within police guidelines..

    Just as in so many other cases of gross police negligence, the final decree by the police was the usual “We have investigated ourselves and found we have done no wrong..”

  • dufas_duck

    What you are really saying is to expect thousands of new spam emails after filling out a survey… I have filled a couple out before and became deluged with crap. I contacted the survey company and they stated they also had expenses and that was how they made their money…. It becomes an un-ending chain of crap…..

  • http://medina-gazette.com/ Nick Glunt

    The surveys on our website don’t require you to enter an email address or any other contact information. I’m not sure how spam emails and our surveys are related.

  • dufas_duck

    One never knows what a survey will ask until one starts one. If you would have read what was posted, I didn’t say ‘your survey’………