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Judge says viral Michigan driver Corey Harris NEVER had a valid driver's license

On May 15, a Michigan man named Corey Harris appeared behind the wheel of his car for a virtual court hearing after being charged with driving without a license. Footage of Harris' conversation with the stunned judge was posted online and reached astronomical proportions last week.

Then there was a twist in the case: It was revealed that a judge in a neighboring county had already ordered the lifting of the suspension of Harris' driver's license two years ago.

But things got even stranger at a hearing on Wednesday that began with Judge J. Cedric Simpson revealing that Harris was actually never had a driving license and ended with the arrest of the defendant.

Simpson opened the hearing by saying he wanted to make sure the record was clear. “From what the court has reviewed, he never had a Michigan driver's license. Never,” he said. “And [he] has never had a license in the other 49 States and Commonwealths that make up this great Union. He never had a license.”

The judge further unraveled the confusion and explained that it was not Harris' License that was released in Pittsfield Township last October, but rather its Privilege to drive in the state.

“For example, if he had a Kentucky driver's license, he could have driven anywhere Kentucky allowed him to,” Simpson said. “He just couldn't drive in Michigan because his license was restricted.”

In fact, Harris was apparently aware of this. Prosecutor Konrad Siller said during the hearing on Wednesday that police bodycam footage showed Harris confessing to the police officer who stopped him “at least twice” that he did not have a valid driver's license.

As to how the court reached this decision, Simpson said his office reviewed Harris' records and found that he first applied for a Michigan photo ID on May 3, 1999, at age 19.

“The lawyer knows, and I know too – you can't have both. You either have an ID or you have a driver's license,” Simpson said. “And he got a new ID every year, and so He knows he doesn't have a license. And honestly, I just wish he had said that right from the start and all this fuss could have been put to rest.”

The new twist in the saga was first reported on X by a HuffPost journalist.

After Harris' disastrous preliminary hearing on May 15, Simpson revoked his bail and ordered him to report to the Washtenaw County Jail by evening. Harris spent two nights behind bars.

Two weeks later, shortly after Harris went viral, local ABC affiliate WXYZ reported that his suspension, which was related to a child support case, had indeed been overturned by a judge in 2022.

“It was literally pure … hell. I was attacked, I was followed, I was laughed at, I was ridiculed. I was disrespected,” Harris told the station.

The report shed light on the apparent thicket of bureaucratic incompetence that led to the unjustified citation. To have his traffic record expunged, Harris would have had to pay a $125 fee to the Saginaw County Clerk of Court's office so the court could send a notice of clearance to the Michigan Secretary of State's office, which is responsible for regulating the state's motor vehicles.

Harris pointed the finger at the Saginaw County Friend of the Court, an office that assists court administrators. “They should have lifted the penalty two years ago, but they didn't,” he told WXYZ, adding, “Always double-check these employees because they say they're going to do something and then they don't do it.”

Simpson defended his “sister court” on Wednesday, saying the Saginaw County Friend of the Court had “done nothing wrong.”

“His driving licence … was revoked again in 2022,” he explained. “That would have required Mr Harris to do something, but he did not do that. Therefore, the friend of the court was not required to send anything to the Secretary of State.”

It was not immediately clear whether anyone had informed Harris of the outstanding fee as early as 2022. He paid it on Monday, a spokesman for the secretary of state confirmed earlier. Simpson said Wednesday that the friend of the court sent him the release notice “immediately,” removing the license suspension from his driving record.

The judge stressed that neither his office, nor the Pittsfield police or Saginaw County authorities made a clerical error. “It was a failure on Mr. Harris' part to do certain things,” he said.

Harris's attorney, public defender Dionne Webster-Cox, who appeared alongside him in the WXYZ interview, said she is committed to solving the case and that Harris is “in the process of getting his driver's license.” She said his driving test is scheduled for Thursday.

“[Once he] “If he gets his permit, he'll have to drive for at least 30 days,” Simpson said, then added with a smile, “Obviously he knows how to do it.”

Other parts of the hearing were less cheerful, particularly when Webster-Cox stressed that it wasn't Harris' fault that he was now a meme. “My client didn't start the fuss. Maybe he made a few comments, but he didn't start the fuss at all,” she said. “This was someone who was out of his control.”

Simpson seemed to take exception to this. “You're saying he didn't start it,” he said later. “Oh, he certainly did. He certainly did when he made his initial statement to WXYZ.” The judge added that Harris should blame the whole fuss on “the person he was staring at in the mirror.”

He later added: “Just own it! Once you own it, it becomes a lot easier to just keep going.”

The judge then mentioned that Harris had an outstanding warrant for his arrest stemming from another traffic stop in Allen Park in June 2015, when he was again charged with driving without a license. Simpson acknowledged that he did not know if this was mentioned to Harris after his hearing last month.

“I really don't care if it was him or not,” he said. “All I know is that it was mid-May and nothing was done.”

Simpson then had Harris escorted from the courtroom by a court officer. Online records show Harris has since posted bail. His next court date for that traffic stop is Aug. 13, while his next hearing in the viral case is scheduled for Aug. 7.