Woman suing sheriff’s office after her photo is used by mistake

2 NEWS Investigates woman wrongly accused. (WDTN Photo)
2 NEWS Investigates woman wrongly accused. (WDTN Photo)

SIDNEY, Ohio (WDTN) – A Shelby County mother and nurse who’s never been in trouble with the law was made a criminal in a matter of minutes.  Now, Christine Hughes believes those responsible should pay.

“You just work so hard to make a good life, to be a good person.”  That’s what Hughes told 2 NEWS Investigates.  Christine Hughes couldn’t keep from crying when asked about a careless error that changed her life.

She said, “We were sitting here watching TV. I was doing schoolwork, and my phone started going off.

Woman wrongly accused.  (WDTN Photo)
Woman wrongly accused. (WDTN Photo)

Hughes didn’t know that earlier that Friday during a news conference the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office had used her photo in a lineup of women convicted of welfare fraud.  Hughes has never even been arrested.

“There’s people in North Carolina that saw it,” she explained.  “One of our babysitter’s family members had called her and said we saw this.  We knew who she was.”

Right away Hughes called the sheriff’s office, but it was late so a dispatcher sent a deputy to her home.

Hughes said, “He didn’t really know why he was here, and so I told him what happened and he goes, but we don’t come to these kind of houses for this kind of crime.  And I said I know because it’s not me, it’s not me on there.  The deputy called those in charge.”

Chief Deputy James Frye received a call that night about 11:30.  Recently he sat down with 2 NEWS Investigates despite the fact that the mistake is now the subject of a lawsuit. Frye is not named in it, but Sheriff John Lenhart and civilian Patrick Goldschmidt are. Goldschmidt is the IT employee who pulled Hughes’s photo from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and wrongly connected her to a welfare fraud case.  The sheriff’s office said it turns out there are actually three women in Shelby County named Christine Hughes.

Pam Elliot: Are you embarrassed?

Chief Deputy James Frye: Obviously. Obviously, but at the same time we’ll stand up when we’ve done something right and we’ll stand up when we’ve done something wrong.

Goldschmidt was given a written reprimand and a two day unpaid suspension.  The sheriff’s office has also changed its policy.  From now on, two sworn officers, detectives actually working the cases, will check photos before they are shared.

Frye said, “I think we did everything in our power to correct it. We realize we made a mistake.  We have fixed it.”

Well, maybe not completely.  Searching the web for Christine Hughes Shelby County, I was able to find an article recently from a newspaper in Washington.  It shows the photo with the wrong Christine Hughes pictured above the Sheriff Lenhart’s head.

A photo of the right Christine Hughes can be found on the website of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Pam Elliot: Would anything make this right?

Christine Hughes: I don’t know how you get rid of it.  You know, when I am done with school I’ll have to apply for jobs.  They do advance searches. All of that stuff is still on the internet.

Chief Deputy Frye did send a letter of apology to Christine Hughes weeks after the news conference.  She says she has yet to hear from Sheriff Lenhart.

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