Officials: Inmate held in Metro Corrections more than four months after judge ordered release

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Farron Tomlinson was ordered released from Metro Corrections by a District Court judge last March and told to return to court the next month to prove he was paying restitution in a burglary case.

When Tomlinson, 50, didn't show up to his next court hearing in April 2013, a warrant was issued for his arrest and prosecutors asked that he be held in contempt of court and jailed again.

More than three months would pass before the judge realized why Tomlinson never showed up to court or paid restitution: he had never been released from Metro Corrections, serving more than 4 months after he was supposed to be released before anyone realized, according to court records.

"This is just an injustice of a great magnitude," Judge Erica Williams said to a prosecutor on July 26, 2013, before again ordering that Tomlinson be released immediately.

Assistant County Attorney J.P. Ward agreed in an interview that Tomlinson should have been released from Metro Corrections, writing in the court case that the defendant "has served 135 days he should have been out."

"We don't know why he wouldn't have been released if (the jail) got that order," said Jessie Halladay, a spokeswoman for the Jefferson County Attorney's office. When the office found out that Tomlinson was still in jail, they took "immediate steps to correct it," she said.

The prosecutor's office theorized that there may have been confusion because a day before Judge Williams released Tomlinson on his own recognizance, another District judge had ordered him to serve 185 days in jail for failing to pay restitution.

Williams waived that sentence, according to court records, and released Tomlinson so he could work and pay his restitution.

Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton was out of town and referred questions about the case to Major Mike Ashby. Ashby issued a statement saying jail records indicate Tomlinson was arrested as a probation violator and ordered to serve a 180 day sentence.

"Mr. Tomlinson says that Corrections was wrong," according to the statement, which called the claim "odd."

The statement said there have been past occasions where an inmate was mistakenly held in jail for a few hours longer than expected, but never "days or weeks or months."

And Ashby pointed out that Tomlinson never filed a written complaint with a grievance system the jail has in place.

A lawsuit was filed last week against Metro Corrections on behalf of Tomlinson, claiming he was "wrongfully and negligently" imprisoned for more than four months despite the judge's order releasing him.

The lawsuit, filed in Jefferson Circuit Court, is seeking an unspecified monetary amount.

His attorney, Kyle Burden, said "there is no question" Tomlinson was wrongly jailed and jail officials don't know how it happened.

"It's an injustice," Burden said, adding that Tomlinson did try to tell people he should not be in jail.

Asked about the statements from the judge in court and county attorney's office that Tomlinson should have been released, Ashby wrote in an e-mail that Metro Corrections "stands by its actions and will examine the facts closely as it works to resolve this claim."

Williams declined to comment because Tomlinson's case is still active.

In 2012, Tomlinson had pleaded guilty to attempted burglary for breaking in a liquor store and stealing bottles of alcohol and trying to break in another building in 2012, according to court records. He pleaded guilty and his sentences were discharged on the condition that he pay restitution.

A warrant was issued for Tomlinson in January 2013 for failure to pay restitution in one of his cases.

When he came before Williams on March 14, Tomlinson said he had paid more than $400 in restitution payments in the four months he had been out - working part-time at a dog rescue service - but admitted he had fallen behind. He said he would not be able to pay the restitution if he was locked up and not able to work.

"I'm going straight," he told Williams, apologizing for his crimes.  "I'm a different person now your honor. …I'm just asking for a little more time … to take care of this."

Williams ordered he be released but "that never happened," she said in a court hearing.

When he finally was brought back to court on July 25, 2013, Tomlinson told Williams he had been in jail since her March order releasing him.

"I thought you was going to let me go that day but for some reason they kept me," he said, according to a video of the hearing. "They've kept me for four and a half months."

Williams was clearly surprised and told him he should have been released in March and she would look into it.

"You're getting out today," she later told Tomlinson.

Copyright 2014 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.