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Michigan man who went viral for allegedly driving with a suspended license claims innocence; blames state for paperwork error

A Michigan man who had his license suspended when he appeared in court via Zoom call while driving says he is extremely embarrassed that this colossal mistake went viral on social media and asks, “What was I thinking?”

“It's very embarrassing,” Corey Harris, 44, told WXYZ in Ann Arbor after the incident in mid-May. “Given the kind of ties I have to the church and the community, it's very embarrassing.”

Harris was charged with a misdemeanor two years ago for driving without a license.

Michigan man with suspended license says he feels humiliated after video of courthouse crash goes viral on social media
Corey Harris says he was embarrassed by a viral video showing him being reprimanded by a judge for driving with a suspended license. (Photo: X-Video screenshot/Phil Lewis)

But when he appeared at a hearing on the matter via Zoom two weeks ago, he used his cellphone to participate in the hearing virtually from the wheel of his car.

District Judge J. Cedric Simpson, known for his pragmatic approach, was immediately confused when he noticed that Harris was driving a moving vehicle.

The terse judge called the violation as Harris drove into the parking lot of a doctor's office.

“OK, maybe I'm not understanding something,” the judge began, baffled by the defendant's audacity. “This is about driving with a suspended license… and he was just driving and didn't have a license,” Simpson said as Harris began to understand his mistake.

Harris sat speechless in the driver's seat for a moment, realizing he was in a hopeless position facing Judge Simpson, who revoked the man's bail on the spot.

“Oh my God,” Harris said at the time, stunned.

From there, Harris went to prison and spent two days behind bars.

Judge Simpson, who has focused his career on treating brain-dead defendants, made numerous headlines last year as videos of his harsh rebukes in court became popular chatter on social media.

In April, a Michigan woman who was already charged with a road rage incident got into trouble when she got bitchy with Simpson and he threatened to throw her in jail if she didn't calm down.

“She better control herself,” Simpson warned the woman’s lawyer.

Last June, Judge Simpson presided over another video hearing involving a defendant who came before his court after being charged with drug possession.

At one point, court employees observed defendant Anthony Lane rolling a blunt in front of everyone in the Zoom waiting room.

Simpson then ordered Lane to go to an official correctional facility that same day for a drug test. When Lane failed to show up, the judge revoked his bail.

After his own humiliating confrontation with Simpson in May, Harris – the illegal driver – claimed he was on the road because of a family emergency and was trying to find help for his wife, leading to his embarrassing moment in court.

“What was I thinking? All I was thinking was getting medical attention for my wife. That's all I was thinking,” Harris said. “I wasn't thinking about my license being suspended. I don't care about any of that.”

Harris said he should never have been charged with driving without a license last fall, attributing the mix-up to the Saginaw Friend of the Court.

“The restrictions should have been lifted two years ago, but they were not lifted,” Harris said.

According to State Department records, Harris' driver's license was first suspended in 2010 for unpaid child support in Saginaw County.

Court documents from 2022 show that a judge lifted the suspension and allowed Harris to drive again. However, the documents never reached the Secretary of State's office, and so Harris' license remains officially suspended.

He said he returned to the Secretary of State's office last week to try to clear up the confusion, saying he had learned a hard lesson from the whole ordeal.

“Always double-check these employees because they say they are going to do something and then they don’t do it,” Harris said.

Many reacted on social media to the revelation about the status of Harris' license.

“The world owes him an apology,” wrote one X user. “It's worrying that administrative errors can have such serious consequences,” wrote another user.