Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

In jail, 'John Doe' inmates often identified

In late June, St. Petersburg police officer Daniel Poveda arrested a man without a name.

Just after 8 p.m., according to an arrest affidavit, the man tried to use a fake license to collect a Western Union money order at the Publix store on 37th Avenue N.

When Poveda asked for his name, the man said it was Robert Senske. After he was read his Miranda rights, he changed his story. His name, he said, was Robert Darigo.

"During this time," Poveda wrote in the arrest affidavit, "I was unable to determine what the defendant's name really was."

The man was charged with resisting an officer and possession of a fictitious license. He was booked into the Pinellas County Jail as "John Doe."

John — and Jane — Does are fairly common in the jail, authorities say. But they can't stay in the system without a name, so a process meant to discover their real identities begins as soon as they arrive.

When they walk through the sally port at the Pinellas County Jail's booking center, an arrested person's first stop is a photographer. The photo is run through the jail's database. If the person has ever been booked into the jail under a different name, detention deputies will get an immediate match.

If that photo doesn't return a match, scanned fingerprints might. While inmates wait to see a nurse, their prints are taken. They're run through several databases belonging to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the National Crime Information Center and the Florida Crime Information Center.

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cristen Rensel said information can often be used to identify a person. If that doesn't work, they hope another set of photos will. Those are run through facial recognition software tied to a larger database. In some cases, Rensel said, it can match to ID or driver's license photos, meaning someone who hasn't been booked into the system in the past could still be "pinged," or tied to another name.

Though the system seems to separate offenders from their aliases fairly quickly, there are some situations in which a person can't be identified. In those cases, they often have to answer to a judge. There were 176 women, for instance, listed in the court's public records system as "Jane Doe" on Friday.

"What typically happens is the judge will say "until you provide verifiable information as to who you are, you're not going to be released," 6th Judicial Circuit Judge Thane Covert said.

A John Doe can't just be released under that name, no matter how small the crime, because they could be tied to outstanding warrants. Usually, Covert said, the promise of further time in jail is enough.

Covert handles felony cases, and while no John Doe cases stand out in his mind, he said misdemeanor courts could see more transients or other John Does who aren't accused of major crimes. Felonies could elicit a bigger push for recognition, Covert said.

"By the time they come before the judge the next morning, usually the jail has been able to identify them," Covert said.

In rare cases, an inquiry on the jail's booking page might yield a John Doe. That usually means the person has been released— one listed Friday had a $150 bond — before the system logged their real name.

The John Doe at Publix, it turns out, was named Robert Darigo after all.

Contact Claire Wiseman at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman.

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