Linda Morgan was walking outside a D.C. Superior Courtroom Thursday when two District police officers took her by the arm and announced she was under arrest.
Morgan knew the officers -- her husband had been charged with assaulting them and was standing trial on the charges that day.
Morgan told Officers K.B. Skipper and Donald R. Exum that she was not the woman they were looking for -- a Judith Morgan sought for failing to appear in a court case. Her husband's lawyer, who was with her, then told her not to answer any more questions.
The police proceeded to arrest her, however, and Morgan said that outside the courthouse she showed them three pieces of identification bearing her photograph, and her birth certificate to boot.
But, she said, the police told her that wasn't good enough and took her to the police department's central cellblock where she was fingerprinted.
Police compared her fingerprints with Judith Morgan's and found that they had the wrong person. Two hours after she was arrested, Linda Morgan was released, bewildered and embittered.
The 21-year-old mother of two and Bowie State College student was still reeling yesterday from her experience, which she believes was a vendetta against her by Exum and Skipper.
Police, however, maintain that Morgan's arrest was simply a case of mistaken identity.
According to court records, Donald R. Morgan, 24, resisted arrest last year by three officers -- Exum, Skipper and Daniel Hodge -- seeking him for a parole violation in a misdemeanor drug case. Morgan was charged with assaulting the officers in the course of the arrest.
But Morgan told Judge Fred B. Ugast in court Thursday that he was assaulted by the officers when he was arrested.
Exum and Skipper arrested Morgan's wife. Linda, as she emerged from the courtroom after the hearing. Morgan and her husband's attorney, Harry T. Alexander, loudly protested the arrest. After Morgan told the officers she was not the person they were seeking, Alexander instructed her to answer no further police questions, and threatened to sue the officers and the city government for $1 million.
According to a police spokesman, Exum and Skipper were in court Thursday when they saw a woman who resembles Judith Morgan, whose picture they had. The officers were supposed to arrest Judith Morgan on a bench warrant issued when she failed to appear before Judge George D. Neilson on two counts of false pretenses.
The spokesman said the officers asked a courtroom clerk who the women (Linda Morgan) was and the clerk told them her name was "Morgan." The officers then went to a prosecutor, who advised them that if they had a bench warrant and had identified the subject, they could arrest the person in the courthouse corridor, the spokesman said.
"If Mrs. Morgan's attorney had permitted her to answer police questions, the arrest may not have been necessary," the spokesman said.
"But she produced her identification after she was arrested. As soon as her identification was checked out and they found that the fingerprints didn't match, she was released," the spokesman added.
"This was no common police mistake," said Alexander. "These officers were out to deliberately harass my client. They knew her. They had seen her in the courtroom several times before in connection with her husband's case. They sat beside her in the courtroom Wednesday."
"There are too many false arrests in this city and too much police brutality is covered up by the charge of assault on a police officer," Alexander said.
Linda Morgan, a resident of Fairmont Heights, said that once she had been placed in the squad car, Exum and Skipper had her turn her face from side to side as they compared her likeness to the photograph of Judith Morgan.
"When we got to the cellblock, four other officers came by and looked at me and the picture and asked Officer Exum how he could have made such a mistake because I looked nothing like the picture," said Morgan.
"After I was released, Officer Skipper told me that he hated my lawyer's guts and that Mr. Alexander was not a good lawyer," she said. "He said that if my lawyer hadn't told me to shut up and not answer their questions, they probably would only have asked me for my identification and not arrested me."