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Clay County Sheriff's Office settles wrongful arrest lawsuit by Louisiana mom for $67,000

By Topher Sanders, The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 08--The Louisiana mother wrongly arrested twice by the Clay County Sheriff's Office has settled a lawsuit against the agency for $67,000.

The settlement was reached last month and ends Ashley Nicole Chiasson's legal case against Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler and several other Clay County deputies.

Beseler, through spokeswoman Mary Justino, declined to comment on the settlement. Justino said the settlement was paid by the sheriff's office's insurer, the Florida Sheriffs Risk Management Fund.

"The last several months have been extraordinarily difficult for Ashley," said Andrew Bonderud, Chiasson's attorney, in a written statement. "In lieu of waging a multi-year legal battle, which would have been fraught with risk and uncertainty, Ashley opted to reach a pre-suit settlement with the Sheriff's Office."

The settlement will allow Chiasson to get housing and put the episode behind her, Bonderud wrote.

Chiasson spent four weeks in the Clay County jail beginning in January on grand theft charges and another week in jail four months later on a charge of writing bad checks.

She was the wrong Ashley Chiasson both times. Police were actually seeking a woman named Ashley Odessa Chiasson. The Ashley Chiasson authorities were actually seeking was arrested several days after the wrongful arrest story was published. She later pleaded guilty and was given credit for time served -- a total of 35 days, the same amount of time Ashley Nicole Chiasson spent behind bars for the same cases.

Beseler suspended four deputies without pay for their involvement in the Chiasson cases, including two supervisors. Two of the deputies were suspended for 30 days, the most severe punishment Beseler said he has issued as sheriff.

Ashley Nicole Chiasson's wrongful arrest was the second time in a six month period that the Clay sheriff's office arrested the wrong person for a crime because they had a similar name as someone else. In August of 2013, detectives arrested teenager Cody Lee Williams for a sex crime he didn't commit. He was jailed for 35 days.

Williams filed a lawsuit in federal court against the agency in March. Justino said there were no settlement records available on the Williams case.

Topher Sanders: (904) 359-4169

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(c)2014 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.)

Visit The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) at www.jacksonville.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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