Faulty Facial Recognition Technology Led to Man's False Arrest. Then He Was Sexually Assaulted in Jail: Suit

"Any person could be improperly charged with a crime based on error-prone facial recognition software just as he was," the man's attorneys said in a statement

<p>Smith Collection/Gado/Getty</p>

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty

A Texas man has filed a lawsuit against Macy’s and the parent company of Sunglass Hut after he was misidentified by a facial recognition program and sent to jail for a robbery he did not commit, according to several outlets.

Harvey Eugene Murphy Jr. alleged in the filing that he had been falsely arrested for robbing a Sunglass Hut store in Houston, Texas, in January, 2022, according to documents obtained by CBS News, The Guardian and the Houston Chronicle. The crime involved a pair of men wielding guns who went into the store and stole thousands of dollars in cash and goods, according to the outlets.

Murphy Jr. alleged in the filing, per CBS News and Fox 26 Houston, that he had been living in California at the time of the robbery, and when he arrived back in the state in October, 2022 to renew his driver’s license, he was flagged down as a suspect for the crime and was arrested. Authorities later determined he had nothing to do with the robbery, according to multiple reports.

According to his complaint, Sunglass Hut’s parent company EssilorLuxottica worked with Macy’s to positively identify him as one of the robbers using facial recognition software, the Houston Chronicle reported.

A Sunglass Hut employee also picked him out of a photo lineup, though Murphy Jr.’s attorneys, Rusty Hardin & Associates, claimed that the employee met with a loss prevention team beforehand, possibly tainting the investigation.

“I almost thought it was a joke,” Murphy Jr. told the Guardian of his arrest.

Murphy claims that while he was in jail, he was sexually assaulted by three men in a bathroom, which left him with lifelong injuries, Rusty Hardin & Associates, the firm representing him, told the outlets.

Murphy Jr. told The Guardian that he did not report what happened due to the fear of being retaliated against. “That was kind of terrifying,” he told the outlet. “Your anxiety is up so high, you’re still shaking the entire time. And I just got up on my bunk and just faced the wall and was just praying that something would come through and get me out of that tank.”

Rusty Hardin & Associates did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Murphy Jr.’s attorney at the firm, Daniel Dutko, said in a statement to CBS News: "Mr. Murphy's story is troubling for every citizen in this country. Any person could be improperly charged with a crime based on error-prone facial recognition software just as he was."

His attorneys claimed that error-prone facial recognition software and low-quality cameras contributed to the mistake, along with other factors during the robbery’s investigation, according to the Houston Chronicle.

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He is seeking $10 million for alleged negligence, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and gross negligence, the outlets report

Macy’s said in a statement to PEOPLE that it could not comment on “pending litigation” while EssilorLuxottica did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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