Mistaken identity case resolved after 5 INVESTIGATES exposes error in court records
Trayvon Alexander has a daily commute that requires both train and bus rides to get to work at a gas station in the Twin Cities.
But the uphill battle just to get that job is what makes his story unique.
“All I’ll say is never give up,” Alexander said.
Nearly a year after 5 INVESTIGATES found Alexander had been mistakenly connected to his twin brother’s criminal record, the 25-year-old from St. Paul is finally clearing his name.
“I’ve never done anything wrong,” Trayvon said. “I’ve never cheated my way in life.”
Despite letters from the State of Minnesota confirming he has no criminal record, potential employers repeatedly rejected applications from Trayvon Andres Alexander, confusing him with his fraternal twin brother, who has a remarkably similar name – Travon Andrew Alexander.
In February, a 5 INVESTIGATES review of the Minnesota Court Information System revealed that a search of Trayvon’s name (his first and middle names spelled correctly) still produced his brother’s 2017 felony conviction out of Ramsey County for “criminal sex conduct.”
The revelation not only exposed deeper concerns about the accuracy of employment background checks, but also prompted Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Jorge Saavedra to begin looking for a way to correct the record.
“When I heard the story, I was so glad that we had an opportunity to work on his case,” said Saavedra, who is assigned to the Victim, Witness and Postconviction Justice Division.
“(Trayvon) has no criminal record whatsoever in Minnesota,” Saavedra said. “It’s unclear whether it was a mistake on the part of law enforcement at the time of the arrest or if it was a mistake in regards to the information that was presented by Trayvon’s brother.”
After coordinating with both law enforcement and the judicial branch in Minnesota, Trayvon’s name is no longer connected to any criminal cases in a search of the online court system.
“Using expungement, which is a process of sealing records, we use that to correct the record,” Saavedra said. “When he goes and applies for a job, or he tries to rent an apartment, we wanted it to be clear to anybody who checked his background that, in fact, he doesn’t have a criminal record.”
Trayvon saw the immediate impact when he applied for a job.
“Once it went through, they instantly called me, I did an interview, and I got hired on the spot,” he said.
The outcome is welcomed by Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, who issued a policy statement in 2019, directing prosecutors in his office to consider the “collateral consequences” of criminal convictions.
“I really believe that the role of a prosecutor is to ensure that there truly is justice in the community. And that’s not just seeking convictions,” Choi said. “It’s just sad to know that a situation like this happened, but… once we’ve learned about it, thankfully, we have the resources to correct it.”
The relief is coming just in time for Trayvon, who became the father of a baby girl this summer.
“I’m glad that I can be able to provide for them – be the father that I always wanted to be for my children,” Trayvon said. “Now I can prove a lot to people.”