Brandon Marquis Cozart was booked into the Wake County jail Tuesday, charged with with five counts of statutory rape, and held in lieu of $2.5 million bail.
Less than five hours later, a jailer mistakenly allowed Cozart to sign himself out of jail after a different inmate had posted bond, officials said. He was arrested and returned to the jail on Wednesday.
Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said a jailer at the facility mistook Cozart for another man, Brandon Maurice Smith, who shared the same date of birth as Cozart and a similar middle name.
Smith had posted a $2,000 bail after he was booked into the jail Tuesday at 3:44 p.m. on two counts of failure to appear in court. Smith had been transported to another part of the jail when an officer picked up Smith’s paperwork, stuck his head in a cell door and asked for “Brandon.”
“He should have said the full name,” Harrison said. “And if he had looked at [the paperwork] it would have showed that he had the wrong guy.”
The sheriff added that to “Cozart’s credit, he signed his own name.”
Cozart, after signing the paperwork, gave the item back to the jailer and “went out the door,” Harrison said.
The jailer who allowed the wrong Brandon to sign himself out of jail looked at the paperwork immediately realized the mistake, Harrison said.
“He said, ‘hey, the wrong guy signed this,’ ” Harrison said. “You have to give Cozart credit. He signed his own name, ‘Brandon Cozart.’ By the time they found the mistake, he had left.”
The sheriff’s office contacted Raleigh police, who first arrested Cozart on the multiple statutory rape charges, Harrison said.
Department investigators learned that Cozart planned to attend a relative’s funeral in Sampson County on Wednesday afternoon. Sheriff’s deputies in Sampson County located Cozart at about 3 p.m. at the funeral service in Wallace. He was taken into custody by Sampson County sheriff’s deputies when the funeral ended, Harrison said.
Harrison said it was a case of human error. “It’s no excuse, but we do make them.”
Disciplinary actions, however, will be taken once an internal investigation determines what exactly happened and how many staff members were involved in the mishap.
Smith was released from custody Wednesday at 12:48 a.m.
Cozart is back in custody at the jail. He is now under a $9 million bail after he was charged with felony escape from a local jail, a jail spokesman reported early Wednesday evening.
“I take full responsibility,” the sheriff said. “We made a mistake.”