But Miramontes' plan backfired badly when it turned out the cousin also had a warrant – on charges that he had fondled an underage relative. Still, Miramontes, 22, of Dallas, felt that the error would be discovered when his fingerprints were run at the jail. His parole violation would result in some time behind bars and then he would be released.
It didn't happen that way. Instead, Miramontes spent 13 months in the Dallas County Jail without access to a lawyer or court hearing for almost the entire time before the mistake was discovered. He is now suing the county, Sheriff Lupe Valdez and District Attorney Craig Watkins for ignoring his repeated pleas for help after the 2007 arrest.
Because Miramontes had used his cousin's name before to escape legal troubles, the two men were inextricably linked in Dallas County criminal justice computers, which listed Ayala as an alias for Miramontes. They were believed to be the same person.
Jail staff could not immediately detect the mix-up because they didn't have Ayala's fingerprints. Ayala had a clean record at the time.
Miramontes' lawyer acknowledges that his client would have been behind bars had he given the Dallas police officer his correct name during the November 2007 traffic stop. But Miramontes, who violated his parole on an original drug charge, would not have spent as much time in jail, lawyer Robert Fitzgerald said.
"I don't think he would have been in there a year," he said.
The county's response was basically, so what, he should have been in here anyway, Fitzgerald said.
The county and district attorney's office had no comment.
Ron Stretcher, the county's criminal justice director, said that generally it would be unusual for someone with a parole violation to spend more than 60 days in jail. The latest county jail population report says the average stay for a parole violator was 55 days.
Miramontes said he called Ayala's family from jail to tell them what happened. Shortly afterward, Ayala turned himself in and was released on bond. His family hired attorney John H. Read II.
Read said he told prosecutors multiple times over several months that they had the wrong man in custody. But no one did anything about it, he said.
"I told them the very first setting, 'You've got the wrong guy in jail.' " he said.
Read said he thinks the prosecutors were too busy and didn't care. "No one took it seriously," Read said.
Miramontes says in his lawsuit that he tried to alert authorities by writing letters to the judge and to Watkins and by filing a grievance with the Sheriff's Department, which was denied.
In his October 2008 letter to Judge Larry Mitchell of the 292nd District Court, Miramontes did not reveal how the mix-up occurred.
"I was arrested because the police thought I was my cousin," he said in the letter. "I have nothing to hide and am willing to participate in any DNA testing or ID check that would resolve this matter."
Miramontes was finally released in December 2008 after a frustrated Read asked to see the judge about the predicament of a man who wasn't even his client.
Mitchell said he vaguely recalls that a prosecutor showed the victim a photo of Miramontes and that the girl cleared him. Mitchell said he then ordered Miramontes released.
"I remember a mix-up with two cousins. It was an unusual case," Mitchell said. "Why he didn't have a lawyer, I do not know."
Met the man once
Bruce Anton was initially appointed to represent Miramontes after his arrest. Anton said he had met Miramontes once. He said court staff told him shortly afterward that he was no longer needed because Miramontes already had a lawyer.
"We were appointed and almost immediately told, 'He's got another attorney, stop working on the case,' " Anton said.
That other attorney was Read, who had been hired by Ayala, who was thought to be the same person as Miramontes.
Miramontes was arraigned under his real name, court records show. But the paperwork for the second and all subsequent court settings shows the name Ayala.
Miramontes has several drug convictions out of Collin County dating to 2003 and had been in and out of jail since he was a juvenile, court records show. He also had trouble following the conditions of his probation and parole, records show.
He has since served his parole on the drug charges and was discharged, state officials said.
When the mistake was discovered, Ayala was re-indicted under a new case number. He was charged with sexual assault of a child for fondling a female relative at his mother's DeSoto home in 2005. Late last year, he pleaded no contest to indecency with a child and received a deferred sentence of seven years' probation. He could not be reached for comment.
Dallas Morning News
Can we get a jail/prison/imprisonment tag?