Michigan man who went viral for driving with a suspended license never had one: NPR

Corey Harris went viral for driving his car during a virtual court appearance. It turns out he was never licensed to drive.

Video provided by the Honorable Judge Cedric Simpson/Screenshot from NPR

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Video provided by the Honorable Judge Cedric Simpson/Screenshot from NPR

A Michigan man who went viral for driving illegally during a virtual court meeting in May never had a driver’s license, adding a new twist to the bizarre story.

Corey Harris, 44, was arrested last month for driving with suspended driving privileges, according to the Michigan Department of State, in a recorded moment that quickly spread on social media.

“Mr. Harris, are you driving?” a visibly tired Judge Cedric Simpson asks Harris in the May 15 video.

“I’m actually coming into my doctor’s office, so just give me a second,” Harris confirms.

The judge says in the video that the charge Harris was scheduled to appear on was driving with a suspended license, then orders Harris to report to the Washtenaw County Jail the same day.

Harris’ stunned face quickly sparked memes on social media and artistic depictions of him went viral.

But since the incident made national headlines, the story has taken several turns. After Harris’ arrest and two-day stay in jail, it was reported that his license was supposed to have been reinstated more than two years ago and that a clerical error was to blame for the embarrassing incident.

That’s not the case, however, Angela Benander, communications director for the Michigan Department of State, told NPR.

“This is not a material error. It’s a failure of action,” she said.

At a new hearing this week, Judge Simpson clarified that Harris never had an eligible driver’s license. And Michigan Department of State records, obtained by NPR, show it, too.

In Harris’ case, it was his driving privileges who were suspended, not his license, Benander explained.

When he was eligible to have those privileges reinstated and ultimately obtain a license, Benander said Harris did not follow the proper steps to achieve that.

“You can have a Secretary of State driving record without ever having an official driver’s license. And that’s usually because when you receive a suspension of driving privileges, we create a record and then list it as suspended,” Benander explained.

“So in this case there was a record; it was a suspended status. That doesn’t mean he had a license, which turns out he never had a valid driver’s license,” she said.

Harris was returned to custody following this week’s hearing and was released on bail by his wife the same day, said his lawyer, Dionne Webster-Cox.

“He just wants to be a law-abiding citizen.” He wants to be. But bless his heart,” Webster-Cox said.

She said Harris is working to get her driver’s license now and her office is dedicated to helping her properly register to drive again.

“There’s just something about him. “It’s this kind of adorable goof,” Webster-Cox said.

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