José García has been to Miami only twice, both times with his hands in cuffs.
On both occasions, he was extradited from his home in Texas for the same crime — a crime that, according to a Miami-Dade circuit court judge, he didn’t commit.
García’s latest Groundhog Day-like experience ended earlier this year when he was released from jail in Miami after he was found — for the second time in five years — not to be the man wanted for an armed robbery and kidnapping dating back nearly 30 years.
José García said he is trying to recover the losses he incurred as a result of his second extradition, including the loss of his job as a diesel truck repairman. “It shouldn’t happen twice,” he said. “It shouldn’t happen at all — never, ever.”
García’s first wrongful journey through Miami’s criminal justice system happened in 2008 when he was picked up by police in Texas and flown to South Florida, where he spent two months in jail before he could prove that authorities had the wrong guy. He happened to share the same birthdate and name as the wanted armed robbery/kidnapping suspect, José García of Miami.
Texas García’s alibi, if not exactly flattering, was air-tight: At the time of the Christmas Day1983 crime in Kendall, García was in prison in Texas serving a six-year sentence for rape.
García wound up again in Miami last January when he was arrested for DWI in Texas. After serving a five-day sentence in Cameron County, he was ready to be released on probation.
But when the Cameron County Sheriff’s Office found the old arrest warrant, they got in touch with the Miami-Dade Police Department and sent them García’s mug shot and fingerprints. It matched Miami’s records for the wanted man.
“We got confirmation from Florida,” said Omar Lucio, sheriff of Cameron County. “There’s nothing here showing that he was the wrong guy. As far as we know, that was him.”
After García finished his drunk-driving sentence, he was sent right back to his jail cell.
“They told me I couldn’t leave,” García said. “That I was wanted in Florida.”
Back to Miami
On Feb. 21, more than a month after his original DUI sentence had ended, two Miami-Dade police officers arrived in Texas and told him he was wanted for the 1983 kidnapping.
“You’re the ones kidnapping me,” García said he told the officers after showing them the court order proving his innocence.
“They just looked at each other,” García said. “They told me there was nothing they could do.”
The cops then escorted a handcuffed García on a crowded commercial flight from Brownsville to Houston and finally to Miami.
“I was very embarrassed,” García said. “I kept thinking, ‘How could this be happening? How could they be taking me back for the same thing?’ ”
The Miami-Dade Police Department said that García’s fingerprints and mug shot had stayed on file for the old warrant after the first extradition in 2008, leading him to be extradited a second time.
They also blamed García for the confusion, saying that he voluntarily agreed to be transported to Miami and never raised alarms about the 2008 error.