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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Black Lawyer Says He Was Detained Because a Deputy Thought He Was the Suspect

Rashad James, Maryland Attorney detained by Sheriff

Attorney Rashad James

Harford County, MD — Rashad James, an attorney for Maryland Legal Aid, has filed a complaint against the Harford County Sheriff’s Office after he said a deputy detained him and refused to accept his identification believing he was a criminal suspect only pretending to be a lawyer. James believes it was yet another case of racial profiling.

In the incident that occurred on March 6, James said he attended an expungement hearing on behalf of his client, who was absent from the hearing. Upon leaving after the hearing, James was stopped by a deputy inside the court who called him by the name of his client, who is also Black.

James then corrected the deputy and told him he was the client’s lawyer. But the deputy didn’t believe him and asked for his identification. When he had already provided his driver’s license, the deputy instead detained him and questioned him further. James said he was brought to an interview room guarded by the deputy who demanded his bar card and business cards.

“I’ve never heard of anyone going through a situation like this. I haven’t heard of any of my colleagues going through a situation like this, other attorneys that I know,” James told the Insider. “I think that the facts of the situation sort of speak for themselves… There is a track record of instances of bias, instances of racism and discrimination, and there’s a long list of things.”

James said the deputy only him allowed to leave after making a call “presumably to the Client Protection Fund of the Bar of Maryland” to confirm that James was a lawyer.

The law firm representing James in the complaint described the incident as “lawyering while Black.”

“I assure you, if it had been me, I would have just walked out,” Andrew Freeman, who is one of James’ lawyers and is white, said at the press conference. “Mr. James, looking as he does, the officer implicitly accuses him of being his client… That wouldn’t have happened if he were white.”

Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said in a statement that his office has launched an investigation regarding James’ complaint and would “take immediate and appropriate administrative action” if the deputy violated agency policy.

However, he also called for the public not to rush into judgment on the matter while the investigation is ongoing because “in all cases of “trials through social media,” facts and the truth are often lacking, exaggerated or non-existent.”

Meanwhile, since James filed the complaint, a lot more have come forward accusing other instances of discrimination in Harford County Sheriff’s Office.

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