HOUSTON - Gilford Beatty's legal troubles began with a phone call from a bonding company. Beatty said the message left on his cellphone informed him he had warrants out for his arrest on two felony charges of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.
"Still bothers me," said Beatty. "My world ended, everything, painful."
The husband and father of four said his problems didn't end with those two charges. Beatty said after paying for his bond on the two initial robbery charges, he was arrested and charged with two more robberies.
"I kept telling them it wasn't me, it wasn't me," said Beatty.
Despite his pleas of innocence, Beatty was hit with a fifth robbery charge. Beatty then learned he was being accused of a string of mobile phone store robberies that occurred last year in the Humble area.
"My family was scared; pain, suffering, everything, it just breaks you down," said Beatty.
Harris County court records show Beatty was connected to all the crimes through the victims.
Court records read the victims in each case positively identified Beatty as the robber, even though he said he never set foot in any those stores. Beatty spent six days in the Harris County jail, lost his job and spent $15,000 on bail and an attorney.
"How is it possible for someone who has never set foot in any type of establishment be fingered by workers of that establishment?" said defense attorney Andre Wheeler.
Wheeler said sheriff's detectives first came across Beatty's picture while checking for surveillance video at businesses near where the robberies occurred. Wheeler said Beatty visited a business a few doors down from one of the stores that had been robbed and employees had a copy of his driver's license.
According to Wheeler, Beatty's picture was then placed in a photo lineup and shown to the different victims. Court records read that in every case the victims picked Beatty's picture out of the lineup.
Wheeler said the cases against his client started to unravel when prosecutors and detectives learned Beatty was at a bonding company when one of the robberies occurred.
Wheeler said prosecutors and detectives then learned Wheeler was at his job at Bush Intercontinental Airport when another robbery occurred. Wheeler said prosecutors dismissed the remaining three charges after receiving Beatty's cellphone records.
"Mr. Beatty was 10 to 15 miles away from each robbery when it occurred," said Wheeler.
After speaking with Beatty and his attorney, Local 2 Investigates also spoke with some of the robbery victims.
"The body structure that he had, it was different from all the rest of the pictures," said one victim who asked not to be identified.
"So it wasn't his face?" asked Local 2 investigator Robert Arnold.
"No, I didn't really focus on his face," the victim said.
"The guy who robbed you, did you ever see his face?" asked Arnold.
"We didn't really, he was really ducking down so we didn't really see his full-figured face," the victim said.
Another victim spoke with Local 2 via phone.
"There were so many pictures in the lineup it was hard," a second victim said. "I told the detective it was closest to what I saw."
A third victim declined to answer questions and a fourth victim did not return calls for comment.
Detectives and prosecutors said the system did work because further investigation showed Beatty was not the robber and the charges were dismissed.
For Beatty, it is an experience that won't soon fade.
"All mixed emotions; angry, sad, everything," said Beatty. "How can it happen to me?"
Sheriff's officials said the person responsible for these robberies has still not been caught.
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