Sheriff's office issues apology: Released wrong name and photo for serious charges

by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:


HALL COUNTY, Ga. - Keary Nicely was eating at a restaurant along his trucking route in North Carolina, when he says the waitress did a double take. Keary's picture popped up on the television screen, saying he was under arrest in Georgia for assaulting deputies, while naked, along the shore of Lake Lanier.

"It wasn't me!" he said.

"It's your name, it's your picture," was the reply.

"Believe me, it wasn't me," Nicely said. "How can you really explain it?"

Hall County sheriff's deputies had actually arrested Nicely's fraternal-twin brother, Kelly Nicely. Kelly gave his correct name at the time.

"He told you his name was Kelly, and the witness said his name was Kelly. Then he goes to the hospital for 36 hours under his name. They take him from the hospital and booked him under my name? Rocket science," said Nicely.

A sheriff's employee saw an old drug arrest Nicely had back in the '90s in the computer and assumed it was the same person, given the similar name and same date of birth.

The new arrest information was listed under Nicely's name and the Hall County Sheriff's Office released his name and the old photo to news organizations everywhere. The story went viral on the Internet.

"When I used to Google myself, nothing showed up. Now there's a whole bunch of stuff that shows up, and it's not true. It's on the web, so it's always going to be there," said Nicely.

He says as soon as he got back to Georgia, just two days after the crime, Nicely went to the Hall County Sheriff's Office to get the whole thing straightened out.

Just last week, his family went to visit his brother, and Kelly was still listed as Nicely at the jail.

"We called and called, and no action," said Nicely.

So he hired an attorney.

"They had the name. They had the date of birth. All they had to do was put that information in correctly," said attorney Bill Atkins, who now represents Nicely.

Nicely lost his job as a trucker and hasn't been able to find a new one. His pregnant fiancée moved out of state to avoid the stress.

"My life has changed 'cause of it dramatically. I've been stressed out, sleepless nights and stuff like that," said Nicely.

Atkins sent a letter to Sheriff Gerald Couch demanding action.

"Employees in the public sector, just like the private sector, have a duty to do the basic things in their job correctly. Unfortunately when they don't, the consequence is really severe," said Atkins.

When Atkins threatened legal action, the sheriff's office sent a corrected news release and a formal written apology.

Nicely says that isn't enough.

"It would be different if you made a mistake and two days later you apologized. We had to go to these measures to get it corrected. I appreciate the apology, but that should have been a long time ago," Nicely said.

The sheriff refused Channel 2 Action News' request for an interview, citing the possibility that a lawsuit would be filed.