Charges against a 19-year-old teenager mistakenly identified as a suspect in a January robbery were dropped.
Ja’Kee Leaphart, of Lehigh Acres, was accused of stealing a wallet on Jan. 5 at a store in the Coconut Point Mall.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office later arrested Leaphart after an employee from the Lee County School District wrongly identified her in the surveillance video as a former student.
“I asked the police, ‘Why am I here?’ and he said to me, ‘Well you did something with some credit cards.’ I was lost. I didn’t know what he was talking about,” Leaphart said.
Leaphart said she was at work when the crime took place. The real suspects went on a shopping spree, and spent more than $1,000.
“The justice system, they failed her. You know? Before you go after someone with four felonies, my gosh, make sure you have the right person. You can’t just destroy someone’s life with it being the wrong person,” Leaphart’s mother Tanisha Braxton said.
The State Attorney’s Office dropped the charges against Leaphart on Friday. But the teen’s family said the mistake never should’ve happened in the first place.
“It was hurtful. We try to protect our kids and with something like this, I couldn’t protect my daughter even though I knew she was innocent,” Braxton said.
Now, Leaphart is just trying to move forward and get back to a normal life.
“We’re trying to get the charges off my record. I don’t want any of it showing up period. Like, that’s embarrassing. Like, come on, going to jail for something you didn’t do,” Leaphart said.
It will cost around $2,000 and take up to a year to clear her record of the arrest. But unfortunately, her mugshot will live online forever.
“That mugshot is viral, like every person who’s arrested now. Different internet sites come and pirate those photos. This will follow her for the rest of her life. There’s nothing the sheriff’s office can do for her now,” said attorney Scott Goldberg.
LCSO says the case is closed, so those women in the video remain free.