Man says he's innocent, but can't escape 1985 criminal charges - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Man says he's innocent, but can't escape 1985 criminal charges

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KANNAPOLIS, NC (WBTV) -

A case of mistaken identity still haunts a Kannapolis man almost 30 years later.

Police admitted in 1985 they made a mistake, they said this man did nothing wrong. But that mistake has left a permanent stain on his life and career.For more than a decade Jeffrey Long says he had a difficult time just finding a job.

And even though he never was arrested or went before a judge he still had a criminal record.
In 1985 Long said he was working at the Charlotte Douglas Airport when police came knocking on his parents' door to arrest him.

"You know how your mother is going to be all upset," said Long.

A man selling cocaine to an undercover officer said his name was also Jeffrey Long.
When he went down to the police station he says officers realized he wasn't the Jeffrey Long they were looking for.

"As they were walking to me on the sidewalk the undercover agent told the Kannapolis police officers, 'This is not the guy,'" said Long.

Long said he thought it was cleared up that night.

"I was working everyday so I wasn't thinking nothing about it," said Long, "It wasn't me I didn't think about a record."

He never thought much about it until later in life when he was denied several jobs, and in 2001 one employer explained Long had a criminal record.

"The HR lady happened to tell me I was applying for a job, she said, 'You put down that you have nothing on your record, but you have something on your record,'" said Long.

In 2001, he worked to clear his good name. "The officer did go with me to talk to the DA," said Long.

At that time, he said he went with a Kannapolis police officer to speak with the District Attorney in Salisbury about getting the 1985 misunderstanding off his record.

After that meeting, he thought he had a clean record. But last year, again after not being hired for a job he discovered he still had a record.

And in 2001, an annotation was added, "never to be served." Long, says that line makes it appear as if he's been running from the law for most of his life. But since 1985, he has served on a federal jury and a state jury and maintained a Kannapolis address.

"Now, I know I have to get it off," said Long. 

A certified copy of Long's criminal report confirms he story that the 1985 episode is still there.  The Kannapolis police department said their records don't go back to 1985. The officer involved in this case said he doesn't recall what happened in 1985 and he's since retired from the force in 1998.

With time, others have been able to move on because of this report, Mr. Long says he can't. It comes up during his job search.

"And then they said how is your criminal background so last week I explained to the three managers exactly what happened in 1985," said Long.

Long said the red flag goes up and employers don't call back.

Long contacted WBTV because he didn't know where else to go after reaching out to legal aid, the DA and others who say he needs a lawyer.

WBTV spoke to many people looking for answers on behalf of Long, including a retired Kannapolis Police Officer, a retired Rowan County District Attorney, the current Rowan County District Attorney, and the Rowan County Clerk of Court. We also checked the Kannapolis Police Department records and the with the Charlotte School of Law.

The retired DA said this case appears to be grossly unfair. And everyone said Long needs to hire a lawyer, to get the record expunged, but he can't afford one.  And he wonders why he should have to pay, and pay again for a crime he never committed.

Charlotte School of Law plans to take a closer look at this case, through a special program.

The Charlotte School of Law's Pro Bono Program has a joint Expungement project with Legal Aid of North Carolina for those who qualify by income and cannot afford an attorney.    Charlotte Law students with local Legal Aid attorneys offer a free "expungement analysis" for qualifying members of the public living in Mecklenburg County.

To learn more, please call Charlotte School of Law at 704-971-8382.

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