William Finch has been hauled in twice as a deserter - and he's not even in the Navy - because someone apparently used his name and Social Security number to enlist, then ran off from the USS Roosevelt.
"We're very sensitive to this man's problem, and we don't want it to happen again," Navy spokeswomen Lt. Nancy Slivka said Friday, a day after the 22-year-old bus driver was released from Great Lakes Naval Training Center in suburban North Chicago.Finch's picture would be posted prominently in naval offices, she said, and he will be given another document saying he is not the man the Navy is seeking.
Finch was given such a document after his first arrest in June 1987, she said. But he couldn't produce it when state police arrested him Sunday at Starved Rock State Park, where he was fishing, when a routine license plate check revealed an outstanding warrant in his name.
"I was thrown in the La Salle County jail overnight and then spent 31/2 days in the brig at Great Lakes Naval Training Center," Finch said.
Slivka disputed Finch's reference to the brig, saying he was held in a unit without bars.
But she said Great Lakes personnel undoubtedly treated him as a deserter.
"When we go out and pick up a deserter, he's not necessarily going to come along willingly," she said.
"Experience has told these people they may hear a number of different stories. Based on the information they had in front of them . . . they processsed him as if he were a deserter."
Finch said his hair was cut short and he was forced to march until a federal judge issued an order to free him.
The Navy first got its signals crossed with Finch on June 3, 1987, when Chicago police stopped him for a burned-out taillight. The desertion warrant turned up during a routine license-plate check that time, as well.
After spending a night in jail, Finch was taken to Great Lakes for questioning and a comparison of descriptions.
"He was 5 foot 4 inches; I am 5 foot 7 inches. He weighed 140 pounds; I weigh 220. He didn't have any scars; I have a large scar from a kidney operation. He was left-handed; I am right-handed."
Finch was released immediately that time.
He had more trouble this time because the statistics on the deserter had to be mailed from Washington, Slivka said.
"The Navy sent the records by mail on Monday," Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Walsh said Thursday. "It must have been by route of a slow boat to China. The records still aren't here."
Said Daniel Crowe, Finch's attorney: "If the judge hadn't agreed to hear the case, Finch would have been in the brig until next week."
Telephone calls to Crowe's office Friday for details on the court action were not returned. Finch was not home, his mother said.