Family says 14-year-old wrongfully arrested for skipping taxi fare

Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

The family of a teenager says he is traumatized after being wrongfully accused of skipping out on a taxicab fare. The teen’s family also says he was never in a cab in the first place. But the driver says otherwise.

Friday, July 26, Lee County Sheriff’s Office arrested 14-year-old Levaris Johnson in Lehigh Acres for not paying a $55 taxi fee. A Bluebird Taxi driver accusing him chose Johnson during a suspect lineup.

“He’s accused of skipping out on a taxi fare,” Attorney Joe North said. “A taxi that he had never been in. A taxi that he knew nothing about.”

Instead of getting ready for school this month, Johnson is getting ready for his scheduled court date. Surrounded by his family and attorneys, they all say Johnson was wrongfully arrested by Lee County deputies.

A taxi driver told deputies last Friday a customer they drove from Cape Coral to Lehigh did not pay their tab. But deputies say their K9 unit dog led them a block away from the spot a driver says their customer got out without paying up. The dog led deputies to Johnson’s home, where the 14-year-old was inside playing video games.

“On Friday night, he’s home playing video games barefoot,” North said. “And he’s pretty much abducted from his home by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.”

Deputies say the “stiffed” driver picked the teen out of the suspect lineup, but Johnson’s mother was holding back tears when she told us her home cameras tell a different story. Johnson’s mother sent us a screenshot that shows the teen playing video games at his home around the time deputies say he was in a cab across town.

Credit: Screenshot of home camera still shared with WINK News.

“It’s really sad that people that are supposed to be upholding the law and protecting you are actually abducting you and treating you like you are a dog; you’re not worthy of being a human being,” said Corey Hampton, Johnson’s uncle.

The arrest report acknowledges Johnson was wearing different clothing than the driver originally told deputies.

Attorneys Cedric Hall and North are representing Johnson with plans to fight the charges and pursue a civil action against the sheriff’s office and the taxi service.

“There was a prejudgment by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office,” Hall said. “They prejudged based on his skin, and they didn’t listen to him.”

We reached out to LCSO more than once, giving them a chance to comment on this case, and the sheriff’s office declines to comment both times, stating it’s an active investigation.

“Lee County Sheriff’s Office, please do the right thing and get these charges dismissed and dropped completely,” North said.

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