L.A. County to pay $150,000 for jailing wrong twin
LOS ANGELES – An Arkansas man jailed for 13 days because deputies mistook him for his fugitive twin brother will receive $150,000 from Los Angeles County in exchange for dropping the county from his federal lawsuit.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the payment to Ray Dean Nugent and agreed that the Sheriff’s Department would improve its policy on warrant arrests.
Ray says he’s been stopped several times since police in Opelousas, La., issued an arrest warrant in 1985 for his fraternal twin, Jay Gene Nugent, for bank robbery and two counts of attempted murder of police officers.
He has filed a $13 million federal lawsuit against the Opelousas Police Department because the agency won’t revise the warrant, which Ray says should include information about his being a twin and give a description of him because he and his brother don’t look alike.
The suit is scheduled to go to trial in Los Angeles on Jan. 31.
Opelousas Police Chief Larry Caillier said his department gets a call every time Ray is stopped.
”When you stop him, you have no way of knowing if you have him or the bank robber,” Caillier said.
The chief denied accusations by Ray’s lawyer that his department delayed sending Los Angeles information about Jay in hopes that Ray would tell them where to find his twin.
”This lawyer is trying to milk the cow dry,” the chief said.
In an interview from his Alexander, Ark., home, Ray said he doesn’t know where his brother is and hasn’t had any communication with him since before the bank robbery.
Ray, a contractor and long-haul trucker, said he understands that officers must be cautious whenever he’s stopped for a traffic violation, but added the situation can be easily rectified.
”It ain’t no fun on the streets when a policeman pulls a gun on you. I’ve always understood it, but I’m tired of understanding it,” he said.
Ray has a card with an FBI phone number so police can verify that he is not the armed-and-dangerous Jay. But officers don’t always call the number.
Other police departments have held him for only a few hours until the identity issue is cleared up. But in 1993, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies questioned him about his illegally parked car and held him for 13 days while trying to get proper fingerprint identification from Louisiana.
Deputies refused to release Ray even after another brother, who is a Little Rock police officer, vouched for him.
”It was a wild one. They put me out there in county (jail) with nothing but murderers,” he said.
Born July 13, 1956, the young brothers resembled each other and were often dressed in matching clothing. They played tricks on friends by switching places, but as they grew older, they grew apart and their physical similarities changed.
Ray is 5-foot-9 and about 200 pounds while Jay is three inches shorter and was last seen weighing about 150 pounds. Ray has green eyes, Jay has brown eyes. Ray has straight hair, Jay has wavy hair.
Jay, who is charged with robbing St. Landry Bank and Trust Co. of $7,000 and engaging officers in a gun battle before fleeing to the woods, remains at large. Some of his belongings were found below an avalanche in the wilderness of Canada, but his family and the FBI believe he is still alive.
Despite the hassles with law enforcement, Ray isn’t upset with his brother.
”I’ve never got mad at him because if he did do it, he knows he’ll have to answer for it. He’s not the one whose telling me that I’m not me.”