Wrongfully Accused Follow Up: Huntsville man pleads guilty to crimes placed on US Army reservist with clean record

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Derrick Hines, 25, pleaded guilty to burglarizing a Huntsville business on May 1, 2016. Court records show he pleaded guilty on September 27. Additionally, PFC. Steven McDowell has a clean record once again.

Hines was sentenced to two years probation. If he violates his probation, he will serve three years behind bars.

WHNT News 19 first told you about Hines' arrest on July 13, 2017, during our special report, 'Wrongfully Accused.' Initially, McDowell was charged with two counts of burglary for crimes he did not commit.

The case solely relied on a still frame of surveillance video and a tip from McDowell's previous landlord. She saw the picture in the local news, called Huntsville Police and identified the person as McDowell.

But, McDowell and his family pointed out the differences they thought were obvious. In their investigative report, Huntsville Police investigators noted they didn't think McDowell's mother, Tam Jackson, looked at the photos long enough to determine if it was, in fact, her son. She recalls it this way, "I looked at the picture and handed it right back to them cause it's like, how do you not know your own kid? Like, why do you need to study a photograph to see is this really my kid? Ya know? No. It's not him."

Jackson, who spoke to us throughout the investigation because McDowell was worried about damaging his case, pointed out that Steven's skin is lighter than the offender in the pictures, his eyes closer together, his lips lighter-colored and different sizes. She also pointed out a chicken pox scar on the left side of his face and his nose, which Jackson notes isn't the same size or structure of the burglar.

She told WHNT News 19, "I just want people to see that this isn't my baby."

Then, finally, prosecutors saw that too. Prosecutor Jeff McCluskey filed for what's called a "Nolle Prosse," meaning the DA's office would not prosecute the case. The motion documented that the DA's office had analyzed the photos time and time again, even attempting to have them enhanced to see if they could reveal Steven's distinctive chicken pox scar.

The next day, Steven's public defender filed a motion to dismiss the charges with prejudice because Steven is innocent. This means that McDowell would never be tried for those crimes again.

The wrongful arrest still saddled McDowell with thousands of dollars of debt. Then, with the help of the Alabama Nonviolent Offenders Organization, he paid $600 to expunge the charges from his once-clean record.

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