March 28, 2019
A Black Attorney was detained after a Maryland Sherriff thought he was a suspect and an impersonator. The Sherrif is now being investigated on since the incident.
"If Mr. James were white, this would not have happened."
Lawyers filed a complaint against the Harford County Sherrif's Office after one of their African-American legal aid attornies were detained after a sheriff insisted that he was the client in the case and not the attorney.
The attorney, identified as Rashad James, said that while going through the incident, something very surreal happened.
James was just going about his job at the Harford County District Court in Bel Air, successfully getting an expungement for a client of his that was not there.
Afterward, a sheriff's deputy stopped him right in the courtroom and began questioning him whether he was really a lawyer or just impersonating one.
"After the hearing, that's when I encountered the officer who incorrectly called me by the name of the client. I stated that I was not the client, that I was, in fact, the client's attorney."
Since clarifying was not enough for the officer, they asked for more proof that he was, indeed, who he said he is. When James showed his driver's license, they asked for more identification like his state bar card or business cards.
According to Andrew Freeman, James' attorney for the complaint, asking for the driver's license should have been it.
His second attorney, Chelsea Crawford, said that the incident would have gone completely different if he were white.
"If Mr. James were white, this would not have happened. It should have been enough when Mr. James appeared in court and the judge accepted on the record that he was an attorney and his client was absent. That should have been enough, and at that moment, it wasn't for that officer."
The incident is now being investigated by the Harford County Sherrif's Office - Office of Professional Standards. As for Attorney James, he now carries business cards with him wherever he goes.