A Facebook friend request from a woman he didn't know led to an Atlanta music producer’s incarceration for 10 days. And the whole bumbling case has led to the same man being awarded $300,000 for his trouble.
David Cunningham, who goes by the stage name "Dun Deal," told CBS 46 that in 2014 he became a suspect in an Augusta, Ga., Costco smash-and-grab in which thieves made out with $80,000 worth of stolen jewelry taken from a display case.
Cunningham says that even though he's never been to Augusta and therefore had never been to a Costco in Augusta, as police began searching for the four suspects, he became their prime target.
Cunningham told the news station that his nightmare started when he answered a friend request from a woman he didn't know.
"I have fans, you know; people follow me. And I add people back. I have no issue with following people back," Cunningham told CBS 46.
Turns out that the woman, later revealed in court records to be Ronnica Westmoreland, reportedly rented the getaway car used by the men who pulled off the robbery. When police questioned Westmoreland, she said she loaned the car to a guy named David.
"David is a pretty common name, so they went to her Facebook page, found everyone named David," Cunningham's attorney, James Radford, told the news station. "They found a black man who wears a lot of jewelry. So they jumped to the conclusion that must be him."
Cunningham notes that because he's in the music industry, his Facebook page shows him in photos with famous rappers.
"The picture that they showed of me was with Birdman. They asked me who that was," Cunningham said. "He was wearing a lot of diamonds and they slid me the picture, and they ask, 'Who's this?’ I'm like, 'That's Birdman!’”
Police claimed that Cunningham looked like one of the men in the security video, and even went so far as to claim that his fingerprints were found at the scene—which a total fabrication. Cunningham had never been there and had never been arrested, so he didn't have fingerprints on file, CBS 46 reports.
But that didn't stop the Richmond County Sheriff's Department from issuing a warrant for Cunningham's arrest. The sheriff's department notified the FBI, and its agents went undercover, dressed in Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses, to take Cunningham into custody at a Dallas airport.
They also raided his studio in Atlanta and "they threw tear gas over the gate, put guns in people's faces," Cunningham told the news station.
Cunningham spent 10 days in jail before the charges were dropped.
Augusta Commissioner William Fennoy told the news station that while he feels bad that taxpayers are on the hook for the large settlement of $300,000 that was awarded to Cunningham, it was still the right thing to do.
"I know that if it was me who spent 10 days in jail for something I didn't do, I would want as much money as possible," said Fennoy.
The news station notes that deputies who fabricated evidence were disciplined and one officer was forced to resign.
Defense attorney Caleb Gross told CBS 46 that while things worked out for Cunningham in the end, people without the resources the producer has fare far worse.
"If he was someone else, someone without family, without means, without a father who understood the process, that 10 days could have turned to 50," Gross said. "It could have turned to 100. That's how people get sucked into the system."
Read more at CBS 46.