Local News

Human error cited for Apex woman's jail troubles

Posted August 3, 2009 11:53 p.m. EDT
Updated August 5, 2009 5:14 p.m. EDT

— Wake County's clerk of court says the NCAWARE system, designed to instantly check if suspects have outstanding warrants, is working as it should despite an Apex woman's claims she was detained on two warrants that had already been disposed.

Police arrested Jennifer Aben, 25, of Castlebrook Court, on Friday for using her son's name to get a cable television account.

When authorities took her to the Wake County Magistrate's Office, Aben was told she was also wanted for a probation violation and failure to appear in court. The NCAWARE tracks warrants across jurisdictions for wanted persons, but Aben said in her case, the system turned up disposed warrants. But state Administrative Office of the Courts spokeswoman Sharon Gladwell said this was not the case, and that the computer system showed the warrants had been disposed.

Aben had already completed the prison term and probation time for those offenses. Nevertheless, she was placed in jail under a $123,000 bond. Her current offense of obtaining property by false pretense, and a 2002 worthless check offense still on her record, should have equaled a bond of $3,500.

“Part of the problem is that you're straddling between a new electronic system and a paper system,” Wake County Clerk of Courts Lorrin Freeman said.

Freeman said she believes Jennifer Aben's case was due to human error and not a failure with the system.

Aben said she was unaware of the worthless check offense, and paid it off Friday. She also said she has turned her life around since serving time for charges related to embezzlement, and is working at a restaurant to support her two children.

“I was livid, there’s no other way to describe it. I was livid. I was angry,” said David Aben, Jennifer’s father.

David Aben, a retired Navy SEAL, said he taught his children to obey the law. He was the person who turned Jennifer in to authorities when she first got into trouble in 2002.

“My dad always taught me to have faith and trust in the system and do right … (but) I don't have any faith left in it,” Jennifer Aben said.

“We certainly hope this is an isolated incident,” Freeman added of Jennifer’s case.

Freeman said that the NCAWARE system was read incorrectly, but showed the correct information, when Aben was processed, but that a clerk pulled an old document from Aben's file that showed she was still wanted on old charges.

“We're working quickly to try and get this resolved. She was released in less than four hours, it appears. So we want to get to the bottom of it so it doesn't happen to other people,” Freeman added.

Freeman said the NCAWARE system is doing exactly what it was designed to do, overall. It contains more than 100,000 unserved warrants, and since its launch, the majority of warrants served have been done so correctly, she added.

Gladwell also added that an audit of the NCAWARE system showed what the system was working properly Friday.

Freeman said the complexity of Aben’s record likely contributed to the human error.

So far, the NCAWARE system is available to law enforcement officers in Harnett, Lee, Edgecombe, Nash, Wilson and Greene counties. Officials hope to have all counties using the system by 2010.