Wrongfully accused man suing township police

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DEWITT TWP., MI. (WILX) -- A Lansing man spent four months in the Clinton County Jail for a crime he didn't commit.

A woman died of an overdose in 2017. Her acquaintance told police who sold her the drugs, but they arrested the wrong guy.

Now, he's suing the Dewitt Township Police for it.

A woman died of an overdose in 2017. Her acquaintance told police who sold her the drugs, but they arrested the wrong guy.

Jerome Austin spent four months in jail, while Jerome Alston walked free.

Austin is now taking Dewitt Township Police to court for violating his civil rights

His attorney says the police did minimal work in the case.

“It’s truly a case of mistaken identity, as a result of extreme carelessness, and very sloppy, investigatory police work,” said Andrew Laurila, of Rasor Law Firm in Royal Oak. “It was kind of like they went out and picked up one African-American guy that looked somewhat like another African-American guy and didn't really try to figure out if they were getting the right person."

His arrest caused turmoil in his family.

"When I talk about it, or think about it, I still get upset about It,” said his mother, Felicia Clayborn. “I think it was wrong...for a person to be locked up for so long, and be wrongfully convicted for a crime you did not do."

Even worse?

Austin’s mother and lawyer tell News 10 he has schizophrenia.

"His ability to defend for himself or speak for himself is limited," said Laurila.

"In his situation, he doesn't know, a lot of the time, what he's saying," said Clayborn. "But he knows he got arrested for something he didn't do. He knows that much."

They both agree it's four months of his life that Jerome Austin can't get back.

"I can't think of anything worse for somebody...it's an extremely sad situation," said Clayborn.

Jerome Alston, the actual man connected with the case, has been convicted.

News 10 reached out to Dewitt Township Manager Julie Coleman and Police Chief Mike Gute for comments.

We have not heard back from them.