Michigan driver whose virtual hearing went viral never had a driver’s license, judge says

A man who went viral after driving during a virtual court proceeding over his suspended license never had one to begin with — from any state, ever, a judge said during a hearing Wednesday.

Corey Harris appeared in Washtenaw County Court on Wednesday, wearing a yellow shirt that said “trust me” on the front, following a video from his May 15 hearing — which showed Harris joining a Zoom hearing for his driving without a license from behind. The steering wheel of a car has gone viral on social media.

Wednesday’s appearance came after local news outlet WXYZ Detroit reported on whether Harris should have been charged with a misdemeanor stemming from a traffic stop in October 2023 because, as the outlet reported, the privilege suspension Harris’s license to drive in the state was lifted in 2022.

But that’s not exactly what happened, as Judge Cedric Simpson pointed out in court and as Angela Benander, director of communications and media relations for the State Department, explained. Michigan, during a telephone interview.

Dionne Webster-Cox, the attorney representing Harris, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Corey Harris appears in court Wednesday.Hon. Judge Cédric Simpson

At the start of Harris’ hearing Wednesday, Simpson responded to comments — some he said came from Harris — saying the court had acted “on the basis of some type of faulty or erroneous information,” which incited the court to review Simpson’s earlier decision.

Harris first had his Michigan driving privileges suspended in 2021 after he failed to pay child support, Benander said. Simpson said if Harris had a license in another U.S. state, he would have been allowed to drive in the rest of the country, but not in Michigan.

But Harris never held a license, Simpson said. Not in Michigan, or any other American state.

Later in 2021, new “clean slate laws” in Michigan lifted license suspensions for categories including child support cases, Benander said. Thanks to the new laws, Harris could regain his driving privileges.

In Michigan, a person without a driver’s license can still have a driving record showing a suspension, as in Harris’ case. Benander said if Harris tried to get a license while the suspension was on his driving record, he wouldn’t have been able to do it.

However, reinstatement of driving privileges in Michigan does not happen automatically, Benander explained, noting that Harris did not make the necessary representations to the Saginaw County Friend of the Court in 2022 to have this suspension be removed from his driving record.

That “required Mr. Harris to do something,” Simpson said. “He did not do it.”

Benander said normally the accused would have been informed that his suspension could be lifted and that he should report to the Friend of the Court. In most cases, they would have to pay a fine to receive a release form which they would then have to submit to the Secretary of State’s office within 10 days to have the suspension removed from their record.

Corey Harris appears on Zoom for a court hearing on May 15.Honorable Justice Cedric Simpson

The state of Michigan has no record of any such action by Harris, Benander said, adding that it is not, and never has been, the responsibility of the Friend of the Court to pass on these documents to the Secretary of State.

Simpson said the Friend of the Court “did nothing wrong” in Harris’ case. Simpson also said that because Harris did not do what he was supposed to do, the Friend of the Court had no obligation to send anything on his behalf to the secretary of state.

Simpson added that pointing the finger at the secretary of state is also inappropriate in this case because they “did what they were supposed to do.”.

“Everything was okay. There was no mistake. By anyone. It was a failure of Mr. Harris to do certain things,” Simpson said.

Simpson said Harris paid reinstatement fees last week and the offices did what they were supposed to do, sending out the forms “immediately.” He added that the secretary of state removed the suspension from Harris’ driving record.

Benander confirmed Wednesday that Harris’ reinstatement was announced Monday and that his suspension was lifted.

The judge acknowledged the process could be complicated and said “it wasn’t anyone’s fault” other than Harris failing to pay the fee or take the action asked of him.

Simpson also said Harris lied when asked if he was trying to resolve the situation between the October events traffic stop and the court date of May 15.

The judge said Harris indicated in response to a question out of court that he was bedridden due to an accident and could not go to the secretary of state’s office during that time.

“That’s not true,” Simpson said before asking Harris on Wednesday where he was on Dec. 1. 28.

Harris told the judge he was “immobilized.”

“You were in the Secretary of State’s office,” Simpson retorted. Harris was renewing his Michigan state ID, Simpson said.

The judge said he knew Harris never had a driver’s license because records show he “religiously, every year” renewed his ID card at the Secretary of State’s office, and in the Michigan, a the resident cannot hold both a permit and an identity document.

Simpson said he wished Harris had been honest from the start and that in that case the court would have helped him right the wrong and get him a license.

Even though Harris had his driving privileges reinstated before the October traffic stop, which led to the offense that landed him in court last month and Wednesday, because he had never held a driver’s license, he would still have been accused of driving without a license. a license.

Prosecutors noted in court Wednesday that, according to body camera footage, Harris twice said during that traffic stop that he did not have a valid license.

Webster-Cox said in court Wednesday that Harris was in the process of obtaining a proper driver’s license and his license test was approaching.

“He is working diligently to take the necessary steps to obtain his driver’s license,” she said.

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