One week after the Beverly Hills Police Department admitted its officers had mistaken television producer Charles Belk for a bank robber and wrongfully detained him, Belk’s arrest record remains on public file and a legal expert says it probably won’t go away.
“Close to 100 percent of the time when someone is arrested, it will stay in that database,” criminal defense attorney David Diamond of Diamond & Associates told TheWrap.
Diamond has no ties to Belk, but the attorney does have years of experience dealing with wrongful arrest cases. “It literally happens almost every single day,” Diamond said. “Often times it’s based on race and often times it’s based on laziness by law enforcement agencies.”
Belk, whose credits include “The Greatest Song” and “Douglass U,” was suddenly taken into custody on Aug. 22 as he walked to his car to check the time on his parking meter. After the Hollywood producer wrote about the ordeal in a Facebook post, Beverly Hills police issued an apology saying it “deeply regrets” mistaking him for a criminal.
The BHPD added that Belk was taken into custody based on witness accounts and “the totality of the circumstances” revolving around the investigation of a robbery at a Citibank branch. However, Belk maintains that he has never been to the bank in question.
The suspect responsible for the robbery remains at large. But his alleged accomplice, 47-year-old Brianna Clemons Kloutse a.k.a. the “Purse Packing Bandit,” is now behind bars, being held on $550,000 bail. Kloutse is responsible for nine bank robberies and two attempted bank robberies in Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, according to police.
Belk, who hours before his arrest had been at an Emmy Awards gifting suite, said that he was detained near Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevards. “An officer on a motorcycle pulled up next to me and asked me to come over to him,” Belk previously told TheWrap. “He asked to see my identification and asked me to sit on the curb.”
According to Belk, a police lieutenant later told him there had been an armed robbery at a nearby bank and Belk fit the description of the robber. “Same color shirt, same color pants,” Belk said the lieutenant revealed, adding that the suspect was a “tall, bald headed, black male.” Belk claimed he was never read his Miranda rights and spent the next six hours in jail.
While local police departments make arrests, it is the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department that houses inmates in county jails and maintains the online database of arrest records.
When asked why Belk’s arrest record was still online Tuesday afternoon, even though investigators had determined he did nothing wrong, Beverly Hills police blamed the Sheriff’s Department. “The Beverly Hills Police Department does not maintain the information on the Sheriff’s Department website,” said BHPD Sgt. Max Subin. “We understand Mr. Belk’s concerns in regard to this, and we are working on this issue with the Sheriff’s Department.”
Also on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department told TheWrap it is working on removing Belk’s arrest record from the online database, but was unable to say how long the process would take.
As for Belk, he doesn’t think enough is being done to clear his name. “It’s unfair,” he said, adding, “I want my fingerprints, mug shot and arrest record removed.”
Diamond explained Belk has reason to be concerned. “If someone [a potential employer] does a criminal background check, it will show up,” Diamond said.
But the attorney explained that not all hope is lost. “There is a petition called a Petition to Seal and Destroy An Arrest Record. He can file it with the arresting police agency.” However, Diamond cautioned, “more often than not, the Sheriff’s Department says no.”
Still, Diamond admitted Belk does have one thing on his side — intense public interest in his case. “The one thing this young man has going is the public outcry,” Diamond said. “The only time they [the Sheriff’s Department] do something is when there’s public pressure.”
The Beverly Hills Police Department has launched an internal review of its policies and procedures in response to Belk’s claims of mistreatment. The TV producer and his attorney, Jaaye Person-Lynn, are scheduled to meet with Beverly Hills city leaders on Wednesday to discuss the case. “Hopefully something positive will come out of the meeting,” Belk said.