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Arizona Man Falsely Arrested, Prosecuted by Iowa Officials Accepts $285,000 Settlement

by Ed Lyon

Early on January 1, 2017, Tristan Hermanson was with a woman in his apartment in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Two men entered, assaulted him and stole money and his cell phone. The woman, Elizabeth Navarro, seemed to be working with the robbers. Hermanson was able to escape and call the police; he identified Navarro from a Facebook page that one of the responding officers showed him. He also identified a photo of Austin Foster, a man legally restrained from contacting Navarro, as one of the robbers.

Another person showed Hermanson a Facebook photo of Jody Holiday; he contacted the police, saying he was 90 percent certain Holiday was the second robber. He later upped the probability to 100 percent, and also said he was sure Navarro had set him up. Hermanson then contacted the police again to repeat his certainty that Holiday was one of the robbers.

By January 13, 2017, police investigators had found no record of Jody Holiday, but Joseph R. McBride’s name surfaced from Facebook. His Facebook page showed he was an Iowa native, then living in Arizona. The police never put that fact in their report. Investigators determined that McBride was Holiday by comparing his old Iowa driver’s license picture with his Facebook photo. Hermanson was never shown McBride’s photo for him to identify.

All available databases and public records through July 2017 showed McBride was living in Arizona. Nevertheless, Linn County, Iowa county attorney Jerry Vander Sanden swore out a complaint charging McBride as the second robber.

McBride was arrested in Arizona in August 2017 and spent nearly 30 days in a private transport van before reaching Cedar Rapids, stopping in four states along the way. He gave an alibi defense notice, submitting “irrefutable evidence” of being in Arizona during Hermanson’s robbery. Despite this, only after Navarro named Zachariah Crippen as the second robber as part of her plea agreement was McBride released from custody. Crippen had come to investigators’ attention earlier in the case but was never questioned.

McBride filed suit in federal court, and accepted a $285,000 settlement in January 2018 that included attorney’s fees and costs. See: McBride v. Sanden, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Iowa), Case No. 1:18-cv-00004-KEM. 

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Related legal case

McBride v. Sanden