Cops: Inmate who falsely claimed Ebola risk hadn’t traveled

After being arrested for allegedly driving drunk in Cobb County, a West Virginia man claimed he could have contracted the deadly Ebola virus.

Fortunately, Harry Randall Withers tested negative for the virus. Turns out, Withers hadn't traveled abroad since 2005, according to his indictment, handed down Thursday. Instead of a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence, he's now been indicted on three felony counts of making false statements, according to the indictment, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Last Friday, Withers told a jail paramedic he had a persistent cough and symptoms matching those of the onset of the deadly Ebola virus as he was being booked in, according to the Cobb Sheriff’s Office. Withers also said he had just returned from Africa, according to police.

The jail was put on temporary lockdown and staff members isolated Withers, who was then transported to WellStar Kennestone Hospital. There, he was again isolated and tested for the virus. Local and state health officials were also notified.

Then, all eyes and media outlets were focused on Cobb County. Could the virus that has killed thousands in west Africa have made its way to metro Atlanta?

Withers tested negative for the virus. Investigators later determined Withers’ claims were false.

“During an investigation into defendant’s false statements, defendant stated to (an investigator) that he had a United States passport, which could prove his travel out of the country at the times in question and which was stamped entry and exit in Kenya when, in fact, the defendant had not left the country since 2005,” the indictment states.

Withers said he had stayed overnight in an airport in Nigeria, but he could not identify the city or airport, the indictment states. He said he had a layover in Liberia and flew into Brussels, Belgium, before flying back to Dulles International Airport in Virginia, according to investigators. That information was also false, according to the indictment.

Withers was being held Thursday night in the Cobb jail without bond.