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Wake inmate facing sex charges back in jail after mistaken release

Brandon Marquis Cozart, who was due in court Wednesday on five charges of statutory rape, was released from custody overnight by mistake, according to Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A Raleigh man jailed on multiple sex offenses who was mistakenly released from the Wake County Detention Center Tuesday night was taken back into custody Wednesday afternoon while at a funeral.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said deputies found Brandon Marquis Cozart, 24, of 941 Juamaa Drive, in the Sampson County town of Wallace around 3 p.m. after receiving a tip that he was planning to attend the service.

Cozart was initially arrested Tuesday evening and jailed under a $2.5 million bond on five counts of statutory rape involving a 14-year-old child in May and a 15-year-old child in September.

Harrison said a case of mistaken identity allowed Cozart to walk out of jail several hours later.

"This was a jail error. We take full responsibility for it," he said. "It was all human error, on our part. There's no question about it."

Jail employees, he said, failed to follow policy by not verifying tracking numbers and barcodes on paperwork with those on ID bracelets that inmates are issued when they are processed.

"We're looking into it, and there will be disciplinary action," he said. "To what extent, I do not know at this time until I find out all the details."

A man named Brandon Maurice Smith, being held on a failure to appear charge related to a driving while impaired citation, made bond Tuesday night.

When a detention officer called his first name to let him know he was free to go, Cozart responded. Cozart signed his own name on the paperwork for Smith's release and walked free, Harrison said.

Harrison said his staff quickly figured out the mistake – the two men share a first name but look nothing alike – and allowed Smith out, but Cozart was already gone.

After searching most of Wednesday, deputies, with assistance from the Sampson County Sheriff's Office and Raleigh Police Department, were able to track him down.

Cozart's bond, meanwhile, has been increased to $9 million, to include new charges of failure to appear – for not showing up at a 9 a.m. court appearance – and felony escape. His first court appearance is now scheduled for Thursday.


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