Even though he spent three days in jail after being mistaken for one of Nevada's most notorious drug dealers, a former Utah newspaper reporter said Thursday he feels lucky to have been freed so quickly.
The confusion began when Jay Patrick returned to Utah to pay a delinquent fine on March 30 for fishing without a license. But when Cache County clerks processed his warrant on that violation, they believed they'd found one of Nevada's 10 most wanted fugitives.
It would take more than 72 hours for him to prove he could not have been the "Jason Patrick" who sold large amounts of methamphetamine to an informant in Mesquite, Nev., in August 2009. And it was his old newspaper job that proved his innocence.
Patrick used stories published in the Herald Journal of Logan, Utah, that carried his byline to show he was 400 miles away during the time in question.
"I was really scared, because you hear about people on death row who are innocent, but it takes 30 or 40 years to prove," Patrick told The Associated Press on Thursday. "I had a pretty good feeling it would be resolved, but feared it would take weeks. If I hadn't had good people helping me, I would still be in jail."
Patrick, 36, worked for the daily paper from July 2009 until September 2010. He has since moved to Boise, Idaho, where he works as a freelance writer.
He said he has only been given "bits and pieces" of information about the cause of the mistaken identity and whether his personal information was stolen.
"It's a huge mystery to me," Patrick said.
A Clark County official said Thursday that investigators requested Patrick's release after his lawyer used the newspapers to prove his innocence.
"We worked with the Nevada Department of Investigation to determine that they had the wrong guy," said Tess Driver, an aide to the Clark County district attorney.
Patrick's Las Vegas-based lawyer, Martin Hart, said he didn't know whether his client would seek damages
"He just doesn't want it to happen to anyone else," Hart said.
A spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Public Safety in Carson City didn't immediately respond Thursday to messages from The Associated Press.
AP staff writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.