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‘She Looks Absolutely Nothing Like Me’: Despite Video Footage, Police Mistake Black Woman for White Woman with Red Hair in Drug Bust

A city woman has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging she was wrongfully arrested on drug-trafficking charges — even though she looks nothing like the actual offender who was caught on tape.

Jada Noone, 22, spent 23 days in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility after being falsely imprisoned in May 2017 for her alleged involvement in a heroin deal, according to the complaint. The lawsuit, filed by the Wilkes-Barre-based Dyller Law Firm, said Noone bears no resemblance to the woman in the surveillance recording.

“She looks absolutely northing like me at all. They still knew this and they still tried to get me to plead guilty to a misdemeanor,” Noone said when contacted Tuesday. “I was scared that I was going to go to jail for this, and I had absolutely nothing to do with it.”

According to the complaint, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Scott Hawley charged Noone in May 2017 with two counts of drug trafficking, a count of conspiring to commit drug trafficking and a count of drug possession.

Wilkes-Barre police picked her up on the warrant on May 23, 2017, and Noone was jailed with bail set at $75,000. The charges alleged she sold an undercover trooper five bundles of heroin for $300 during a deal on Park Avenue in Wilkes-Barre on May 23, 2016.

The police affidavit Hawley signed describes the suspect as “a white female with bright pink/red dyed hair” and said troopers identified her as Noone “after viewing the video of the female.”

But attorney Theron J. Solomon wrote in the complaint the video clearly shows the woman was not Noone.

According to the lawsuit, Noone is black and does not have red hair. The person in the video also has crooked teeth and a chest tattoo — two attributes Noone does not have, Solomon wrote. Noone said she believes police assumed she was the suspect because they were investigating her daughter’s father. At one point he texted an undercover officer that he would have “my girl meet you,” she said.

“They didn’t even look into any further. They just took the warrant out on me,” Noone said. “All they had to do was watch the video.”

Last June, Solomon filed a petition seeking dismissal of all charges.

“The evidence that Trooper Hawley collected and presented to the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office not only did not constitute probable cause, it affirmatively revealed that Ms. Noone was not the person who had committed the crime,” Solomon wrote in the lawsuit.

During a hearing June 11, county prosecutors concurred with the petition and Luzerne County Judge David W. Lupas dismissed all charges against Noone, court records show.

The complaint alleges Hawley conducted an unreasonable seizure, malicious prosecution and false arrest in the case. The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages to be determined at trial.

In an answer to the lawsuit filed in court, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office denies that the video clearly depicted someone other than Noone.

“To the contrary, (Hawley) and other law enforcement personnel believed it was (Noone),” Deputy Attorney General Daniel J. Gallagher wrote.

The response maintains that Hawley “is without knowledge as to the ethnicity of the person in the video” and doesn’t know whether Noone had her hair dyed red at the time of the transaction.

Gallagher went on to argue that Hawley can’t speak to the condition of the teeth of the woman in the video and does not know whether Noone has had any dental work done. The response acknowledges the person in the video has a chest tattoo, but Gallagher argued Hawley has no knowledge “as to whether it was a permanent tattoo.”

Hawley is seeking dismissal of the complaint on grounds that he acted in a “reasonable, good faith belief in the lawfulness of his actions” and is therefore immune from damages. A spokesman for the attorney general’s office did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

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