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Joshua Shields? We've Heard a Lot About You, and It's Not All Good

The Laguna Beach contractor is often confused with a resident on the same block who has the same name -- and a police record.

August 08, 2004|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

When they were growing up on the same block in Laguna Beach, Joshua William Shields and Joshua Joseph Shields were buddies, building tree forts, hiking canyons and trading their Matchbox cars for sweets at the local candy store.

Back then, their pals called the unrelated duo "Big Joshua" and "Little Joshua."

Today, for reasons that are painful and disturbing to them, they refer to themselves as "Good Joshua" and "Bad Joshua."

While one -- Big Joshua -- has built a successful general contracting business over the last 10 years, the other has had about 10 run-ins with Laguna Beach police involving, among other things, petty theft and drug possession, he and police say.

At first, the name confusion was novel and a little amusing to the two men, who live on the same block of Canyon Acres Drive yet whose lives have taken divergent paths. But as the number of arrests grew, and the name Joshua Shields was plastered in the police blotter sections of the local papers, the humor wore so thin that Big Joshua began writing letters to the local editor, publicly distancing himself from the other Joshua.

Indeed, the confusion was taking its toll.

Clients of the contractor would turn from friendly to distant and chilly overnight; clerks in stores cast a suspicious gaze his way when he wrote a check, and the ribbing from friends and colleagues had become annoying.

Joshua William Shields, 35, worries that his business, which he said grossed $2.5 million in 2003, could suffer because of the confusion between the two men.

Joshua Joseph Shields, at 34, said he is struggling to find his way in the world after making bad choices and hurting the people closest to him.

"I'm embarrassed to show my face to my own family," he said.

He said he also regrets any harm that he may have caused to his former pal's reputation.

Joshua Joseph is hard-pressed to say why his life turned out so differently than he had hoped. Maybe, he suggested, it's because he's been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which causes inattention and impulsiveness.

Whatever the reason, "I've been in trouble almost my whole life," he said.

Little Joshua's troubles didn't have an impact on Joshua William until 1992, when Big Joshua was a reserve firefighter.

His captain had called him into the office and said he'd have to talk to the battalion chief and head of personnel. When Shields asked why, he was told it had to do with his arrest for drug possession.

Shields explained that they had the wrong guy, there was another Joshua Shields in town.

Calls to the Laguna Beach Police Department straightened out the confusion. Everyone at the firehouse had a good laugh, Shields said. They even kept the police blotter notice tacked on the station's bulletin board for a while.

"I didn't give it much thought at that time," Joshua William said. "I didn't have my business, and the kids weren't in school."

Eventually, however, the arrests and published accounts increasingly intruded on his and his family's life.

"If I write a check," said his wife, Tracie, "they'll ask, 'Are you related to Josh Shields?' and I have to clarify which Josh Shields."

Once a lumber store clerk suggested to Joshua Joseph that he charge some items on "his" account. So he did.

He said he later confessed to the other Joshua, the contractor, and promised to pay him back.

Worse, however, has been the effect on Joshua William's reputation.

In the middle of building a $3-million home for a couple who collected art, "I got a funny feeling" from them, Joshua William said. "They never actually said anything, but I could tell that something was bothering them."

There had been a police blotter item in the local newspaper not long before, so Shields sat the couple down and explained once again that there was another Joshua Shields.

"They were so relieved," he said, that their homebuilder hadn't had a run-in with the law.

"I'm always concerned that it's going to happen again," Joshua William said. "I'm also concerned that certain clients will think, 'Yeah, sure, there's another Joshua Shields.'"

Now he and Tracie grab the local papers as soon as they land on the driveway, hoping they won't find another news item saying Joshua Shields of the 300 block of Canyon Acres Drive was arrested.

When they do, he drafts a letter to the editor, asking that the paper make clear that there are two men with the name Joshua Shields, or at least print the middle name of the arrest suspect.

In mid-July, he wrote yet another letter after a news item appeared in the paper about the arrest of Joshua Joseph in connection with the theft of a camera.

Now, as Joshua Joseph tries to rebuild his life, starting a house-painting business, he said he understands he faces the prospect of jail time because the theft is considered grand larceny, a felony.

Acknowledging that his run-ins with the law are well-known in town, he keeps to himself.

"People ask, 'Are you the bad Joshua or the good Joshua?'" he said. "I'm not a bad person."

Someday, Joshua Joseph said, he'd like to hang out with his old buddy again, Big Joshua, the good Joshua, and apologize for any harm that he's done.

"I plan on doing that in my own time," he said. "This is something that's just between the two of us, and that's the way I'd like to keep it."

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