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Fugitive Files: Clarification from Monday night's report

PORTLAND (WGME) -- We aired photos and video of a man mistakenly wanted by the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, we regret the error.

However, we discovered the photos and video we aired was the result of a mistake in the judicial system.

Here's how that happened:

It began with an email Monday. The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office wanted the public's help finding Robert J. Ferguson, wanted on theft and criminal trespass charges, now a fugitive from justice.

As always, CBS 13 and FOX23 News asked that the sheriff's office verify the warrants through the state system. All checked out, and at 10 p.m., we went on the air

Within 2 hours, sheriff's deputies followed viewer tips to a suspect. His name is the same, Robert J. Ferguson, both born the same year, but not the same birthday and not the same social security number.

It turns out that the man deputies approached Monday night was the wrong guy.

One little mistake somewhere in the process can snowball into something that, for instance, last  night, said Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce. The officers when they got there last night they made a decision and I support the decision to not make the arrest. They just didn't feel comfortable.

So what happened? The answer lies in the office of Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson. She says one Robert J. Ferguson was already in the system and a clerk made a mistake, putting the new charges on the wrong one.

They came across a person with the same first name, same middle initial, same last name and same year of birth, and clicked on it. Once they did that, all the documents that were generated on that case continued that wrong information.

We indicted him and we asked for a warrant on him, said  Sheriff Joyce. This information was generated from us, we asked it to be featured on WGME and FOX and I believe that we own that part of it.

And so we have this huge database, explained DA Stephanie Anderson. Yes a mistake was made, but it was corrected early. It was corrected before anyone was falsely arrested and incarcerated and we're going to use this as an opportunity to make sure we don't let this happen again.

Anderson says in her more than 20 years in office, she can't recall a similar case ever happening. She says her office will be sending a letter of apology to Mr. Ferguson.

And for our role in this, we apologize as well.
As for the correct Robert J. Ferguson, now considered a fugitive from justice, authorities say they have not located his mug shot, but believe he's still in Maine.

We'll bring you any updates as we learn them.